Coal Tattoo

Much ado about biomass: Co-firing with coal

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 First Energy Corp.’s R.E. Burger Power Plant near Shadyside, Ohio.

First Energy Corp. announced this week that it is going to spend $200 million to convert its R.E. Burger Power Plant near Shadyside, Ohio, so it can burn a mix of coal and biomass — wood and plant wastes.

The Columbus Dispatch has a story about this,  and they report:

Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign, said FirstEnergy’s decision will create less pollution from a cleaner fuel. Unlike coal, burned biomass doesn’t emit mercury, a potent neurotoxin, or sulfur dioxide, a compound that helps create smog, soot and acid rain. “It’s a lot less toxic pollution,” he said.

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Carbon capture: Dreaming the impossible?

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Two new major media articles out today raise serious questions about efforts to rely on “carbon capture and storage” — CCS — to keep coal in the nation’s energy mix.

First, there’s a Reuters report that the technology needed is very expensive and is expected to still “be in its infancy” far beyond 2020, a deadline by which many scientists — and President Barack Obama — say serious carbon dioxide emissions reductions are needed:

Development of the technology has been slow, especially after the Bush administration abandoned FutureGen, a $2 billion plan that sought to join business and government to fund test storage from a large coal-fired plant.

Burying carbon dioxide from power-plant coal is costly because it requires the addition of equipment to siphon the gas from a huge volume of emissions.

Due to the economic crisis, early efforts likely will focus on lower-cost targets such as oil refineries, gas processing plants and ethanol distilleries, which emit purer, easier-to-capture streams of carbon dioxide, experts predict.

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