Coal, the fossilized form of ancient plant matter, is a form of energy that has been used for centuries and continues to be in use today. Coal energy has a number of benefits; however coal also has some disadvantages that are worth taking into consideration.
It’s important to understand both sides when considering whether coal is something you want as part of your energy portfolio.
Coal has many environmental benefits, one of the most important being its chemical diversity. Coal is able to produce both types of energy, thermal and chemical, which allows it to supply needs both on and offsite.
It also has a higher calorific value than natural gas or oil, allowing for the majority of power plants to be fired with coal as opposed to coal’s higher materials cost and lower efficiency when used in smaller amounts.
The other major benefit is that the burning of coal releases less sulfur dioxide than the combustion of oil or natural gas when operated at a large capacity. This means that it can draw significant amounts of nitrous oxide from the atmosphere instead.
What Is Coal Energy
Coal is a fossilized form of plants, and as such it produces thermal energy that can be used for heat or electricity. Petroleum, natural gas, and coal made up around 79% of all primary energy produced in the United States in 2021.
In addition to its ability to consume thermal energy, coal is able to produce a number of chemical products that are useful in the production of plastics, medicines, fertilizers, detergents and even propellants.
Coal can also be converted into methanol at large-scale power plants by using heat from the resulting steam that is released as a byproduct of burning coal. This hydrogen sulfide-based fuel is then converted into gasoline or other liquid fuels.
Coal energy has many environmental benefits when utilized properly; however, there are other factors that make it more difficult for coal energy to be used on an extensive level, most of which have to do with human health and environmental impact on a population wide scale.
Importance Of Coal Energy
In 2007, the United States consumed a record-high 1.13 billion short tonnes of coal.
Coal energy is a very important fuel source; it’s easy to produce, and its large proportion in the market means that it produces a lot of energy. The use of coal energy as a production method has allowed the industry to continue growing over the years and develop new technologies at an accelerated pace.
This has resulted in an increase in technology and efficiency levels, which are both important factors when considering this fuel. For these reasons, coal energy is one of the most important fuels to consider when it comes to producing electricity and expanding industrial output.
Advantages Of Coal Energy
Coal mining is a major contributor to global warming and carbon emissions. Coal mines release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which contribute to the greenhouse effect and global warming. Coal mining is responsible for a significant portion of the world’s carbon emissions, and it is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions.
2008 saw the peak of coal production, which was 1.17 billion short tonnes.
The coal industry is responsible for a large percentage of greenhouse gas emissions. Other fossil fuels, such as natural gas and oil, also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Coal reserves are a finite resource, and as they are depleted, the coal industry will need to find other ways to generate electricity. Coal dust is a pollutant that can cause respiratory problems in humans.
1. Relatively Cheap
Coal is one of the cheapest forms of energy available, and as such it is often used in developing countries in which energy demand is high, but funding to develop cleaner energy sources is less common. This means that coal is still a viable option, even in those places where alternative fuels are more readily available.
2. Short Time Frame To Produce Power
Coal plants produce power relatively quickly, allowing them to be a solution to urgent power needs when time is of the essence. The growth in coal burning has been partly due to the fact that these plants can be built very quickly and cheaply; as soon as a plant is complete, it can be put into direct operation.
3. Relatively Little Environmental Impact
Coal plants produce a relatively small amount of sulfur dioxide compared to other fuel sources, such as oil or natural gas. This is one of coal’s biggest environmental benefits, as the resulting form of sulfur in air is expelled into the atmosphere much less frequently than with other fuel types.
4. Easy Pollution Control At Power Plants
The amount of dry gas produced (34.15 trillion cubic feet, or 93.57 billion cubic feet per day, or Bcf/day) in 2021 was a record high.
Coal plants can be designed in a way that allows for very efficient and effective pollution control; this means that coal combustion is usually very well controlled, meaning that no major environmental damage occurs when it is used on a large scale.
Coal energy is fairly economical in a cost per kilowatt-hour sense, even when compared to other fuel sources, such as natural gas or oil. It has a high calorific value and therefore allows for use of unsightly thermal plants without a high material cost or poor efficiency.
6. Relatively Low Risk Of Fire
Large thermal plants that are operated on a large scale can be designed in a way that allows them to operate safely at all times; this means that any fire that happens at such large facilities can be dealt with quickly if it were to occur, which lowers risk of an accident and potential loss of life involved with the same.
7. Capable Of Producing Energy At Large Scale
Coal energy is a form of energy that can be produced in large amounts, and as such is a viable option for developing countries that need to grow their power needs on a large scale. It’s possible to build relatively large-scale plants with coal, which makes it more economical than purchasing alternate fuels.
8. Clean Mode
Coal combustion releases very little sulfur dioxide into the air, which means that when it is used in power plants it will not cause damage to the environment and doesn’t put out as much acid into the air as other fuel sources. This makes coal energy cleaner than any other fuel source.
9. Closely Related To Electricity
Coal is primarily used as an energy source, but it also produces electricity. When used in power plants it has different production methods than other forms of coal energy; as such, power plants tend to produce more electricity than thermal plants. Because of this, coal energy can be used to produce many products that can help increase the overall industry efficiency rate.
10. Little Change Required For Burning
Coal can be burned in many forms, including peat and lignite. These are all forms of coal that are easier to bring to market than metallurgical coal, and because of this the burning of coal can be done at a number of plants without significant changes to their existing structure or technologies.
Disadvantages Of Coal Energy
In 2021, the U.S. consumed roughly 82.97 Bcf/day of natural gas, or 31.34 quads, or nearly 32% of all energy.
Although coal is not a renewable energy source, it does have some advantages over other primary energy sources. Coal fired power plants are relatively inexpensive to build and operate, and they can be built in many different locations.
Nuclear energy is another primary energy source that has some advantages over coal. Nuclear power plants are very expensive to build, but they produce very little pollution. Hydroelectric dams can provide a significant amount of energy, but they are susceptible to collapse if not properly maintained.
1. Vast Amounts Of Water Required
Coal power plants require large quantities of water for cooling purposes, which means that they have a large impact on the local environment due to their need for large quantities of water.
Since 2017, both in terms of volume and heat content, yearly dry natural gas output in the United States has surpassed annual natural gas consumption.
Coal energy is a fossil fuel that cannot be re-used. As time goes on, more and more of it will be burned, rendering it less and less useful for the future energy needs of the world.
3. High Cost For Productive Capacity & Maintenance Of Energy Plants
Coal power plants are very costly to develop and maintain. Coal costs much more than other fuel sources; as such, the production of one megawatt will cost much more than that produced by solar or wind power plants.
4. Pollution From Power Plants
Coal burning produces large amounts of sulfur dioxide into the air when it is burned; as such, it damages the environment to some degree. It also presents a relatively high risk of fire in power plants and can be a serious accident hazard that can have devastating results, especially when these plants are located near densely populated areas.
5. Large Amounts Of Fossil Energy To Be Used
Coal power plants are massive energy producers, and as such they require very large amounts of fossil fuels to produce their energy. This means that the burning of coal produces carbon dioxide and other forms of air pollution directly into the environment at a large scale, which can prove detrimental to the surrounding population if done on a significant scale.
Coal is often referred to as a “black diamond” when it comes to reliable power production; this is for good reason, as no other fuel source has the same level of reliability that it does. As such, coal is constantly prone to breakdowns and outages, which can cause the entire power grid to crash.
7. Specialized For Power Production Only
Coal energy is best used for large power plants that produce electricity; as such, it does not have much use in average households or other large scale industrial tasks that require other types of energy.
At small scale it can be used to produce heat and electricity at the same time; as such, it has a wide variety of uses. It’s possible to use coal in power plants for many different purposes simultaneously and this results in clean energy being produced on a large scale.
8. High Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Coal is not only a good way to produce electricity, but it is also a very effective way to produce carbon dioxide. This means that coal energy production results in the release of carbon into the atmosphere at a significant pace, which has caused many problems when it comes to climate change.
In order to reduce these emissions, fossil fuel plants have been implemented in the area; however, many experts fear that this may not be enough in order to reduce atmospheric damage.
9. Not Well Suited For Urban Areas
Coal is not well suited for use in urban areas. Power plants tend to produce large amounts of smoke, which can be unhealthy for nearby populations and lead to respiratory diseases if it isn’t dealt with properly.
This makes it necessary to have good air filtration systems at all times, which is expensive and not always feasible. It’s possible to use coal in power plants in urban areas because they produce electricity; however, the use of this energy source will cause pollution levels that are not well suited for urban areas.
10. Large Amounts Of Waste Produced
When coal energy is used, large amounts of waste are produced. This means that coal burning plants can pollute the environment to some degree as well. It’s possible to use coal energy as a clean way to produce electricity, but it’s also possible to use this fuel source in such a way that it does more harm than good. The burning of coal produces ash and other types of industrial waste that can impact the local environment if not properly managed.
Coal has remained popular for years; it’s a great way to produce energy, and its production will likely continue in the future. There are plans to develop plants that can run on coal and other things like biomass to use this fuel source more efficiently without producing as many harmful byproducts. Even with all of these changes, however, coal will likely remain one of the most important fuels on the market for years to come.