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The Warsaw Voice » Other » July 9, 2008
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Clean Carbon Energy a Cure for Fuel Woes?
July 9, 2008   
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As the global fuel crisis continues, developing more efficient methods to generate energy is becoming a priority-at least for organizations such as the Polish Technological Platform for Sustainable Energy Systems and Clean Carbon Energy.

The Polish energy sector has insufficient capacity and an outdated infrastructure. Many of the country's power units are 30 to 40 years old and inefficient. Few new power units are under construction. Their combined capacity does not exceed 1,500 MW, far below the country's needs.

Poland imports both crude oil and finished fuels. Last year it imported 36 percent of all its diesel fuel supplies and 92 percent of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

Coal is the foundation of Poland's power system, accounting for 96 percent of the country's total power supply, along with lignite. But new more efficient mining technologies are needed because production costs have grown considerably over the past several years. Besides, to meet European Union requirements, Poland needs to use technologies that are increasingly clean and friendly to the environment.

Andris Piebalgs, the EU commissioner for energy, says the bloc should strive to diversify its energy sources and focus on "zero-emission" clean coal technology.

Poland is the largest producer of coal in Europe, accounting for 50 percent of all coal mined on the continent. The country ranks seventh in the world in terms of coal production. While coal is less environmentally friendly than other energy sources, Piebalgs says, this problem can be remedied by developing clean coal technology. This is especially important for countries that heavily rely on coal and have no other option. A nuclear power plant, for example, would take at least 10 years to build and consume much more money-especially in a situation in which the public opposes nuclear technology.

Platform for action
The Polish Technological Platform for Sustainable Energy Systems and Clean Carbon Energy is a project coordinated by Janusz Lewandowski, a professor at the Warsaw University of Technology's Institute of Heat Engineering. The organization is active in six key areas involving the development, implementation, usage and monitoring of new energy-generation technologies.

The first area is clean carbon energy, involving the implementation of new, competitive methods for mining coal, along with the effective management of energy minerals, attention to environmental issues, and the development of new, highly efficient energy equipment. Other priorities within this area include capturing and storing carbon dioxide, and the chemical gasification of solid fuels. The second area is the use of biomass and waste in energy generation, including new technologies for the gasification, combustion and utilization of waste. The third area involves research into modern power generation systems. The fourth area covers storage, use and transport of gas fuels. The fifth area is measuring the effectiveness, efficiency and productivity of fuel and energy systems. The sixth area is knowledge management in energy companies, including databases, server systems, energy applications and electronic systems such as nano-transducers and intelligent networks. Knowledge management also involves the use of EU procedures, such as Remote Centered Maintenance 1 (RCM1) and Remote Condition Monitoring 2 (RCM2), for building a unified central system for collecting, recording and optimizing energy service information and infrastructure. Yet another priority in this area is a program for developing technologies related to unconventional sources of energy.

The Polish Technological Platform for Sustainable Energy Systems and Clean Carbon Energy aims to contribute to Poland's short- and medium-term energy policies. Priorities include increasing the capacity of the national power system and upgrading the country's power generation equipment. The project's participants say the government should privatize the energy sector while maintaining state ownership of transmission networks and promoting efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in line with EU directives. The organization also strives to contribute to the restructuring and privatization of coal and lignite mines, in addition to developing and implementing technologies for producing fuel from coal.

Turning coal into liquid and gas
A recent report by two research institutions based in southern Poland-the Central Mining Institute in Katowice, and the Institute for the Chemical Processing of Coal in Zabrze-shows that at least eight Polish mines could utilize coal liquefaction technologies. Four of these mines-Piast, Ziemowit, Chwałowice and Jankowice-are owned by Kompania Węglowa SA company. In total they have 638 million metric tons of coal that can be mined for anywhere from 29 to 60 years. The Staszic and Wesoła mines, each with 217 million tons of coal deposits, and the Janina mine, with an estimated 839 million tons of deposits, could also pursue coal liquefaction technologies, according to the report.

Prof. Józef Dubiński, head of the Central Mining Institute, says that a system for gasifying coal-with the so-called Fischer-Tropsch method-would cost $2.6 billion to build, assuming that it would process 6 million tons of coal to produce 2.1 million tons of liquid fuels annually. A direct coal hydrogenation system would cost about zl.100 million more, according to Dubiński, but it could process 5.6 million tons of coal to yield more than 3.6 million tons of liquid fuel per year. Another idea worth considering, Dubiński says, is to build a system for producing methanol from coal, as Poland uses 300,000 tons of this product annually. At the moment, all methanol used in Poland is imported.

According to the Central Mining Institute, a total of 128 coal gasification plants operate around the world, using 366 gasifiers to produce synthesis gas on the basis of technologies developed by companies such as Shell, Texaco, General Electric, Lurgi, and Destec. Synthesis gas can be used to produce electricity, methanol, synthetic natural gas, and hydrogen. Coal can yield liquid fuels and chemicals in the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis process. One million metric tons of coal subjected to gasification can yield either 2,500 GWh of electricity or 350,000 tons of liquid fuels. Other options include 400,000 tons of methanol or 370 million cubic meters of synthetic natural gas.

Strategic thinking
Under an EU strategy for a sustainable, competitive and safe energy system-as described in the bloc's Green Paper of March 2006-EU member states will continue to strongly depend on imported energy sources. Today imports account for 50 percent of all primary energy consumed in the EU, a figure that may grow to almost 70 percent over the next 25 years, according to the document. This could be prevented by improving the competitiveness of energy obtained from sources available within the bloc. That mainly means coal and renewable energy.

Coal can be made more environmentally-friendly by developing and implementing clean coal technology, experts say. In the case of renewable energy sources, the main problem is price: energy obtained from renewable sources is expensive.

By developing clean coal technology Poland can contribute to reducing carbon dioxide emissions in Europe, says Dr. Jacek Podkański of the International Energy Agency. Clean coal technology is chiefly needed in countries that heavily rely on coal in their power generation systems. Poland obtains more than 95 percent of electricity from coal, while the world average is around 35 percent. Technological innovation and coal purification methods can help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 5 percent, Podkański says, while increasing efficiency by applying "supercritical and ultra-supercritical parameters" could reduce emissions by a further 22 percent. "Advanced coal technologies based on integrated coal gasification systems make it possible to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent. Zero-emission energy technologies combined with carbon-dioxide capturing systems could reduce emissions by 99 percent," Podkański said at a recent conference on the EU's energy policy.

Developing clean coal technology and reducing carbon dioxide emissions are among the key priorities of Poland's energy sector in the next 15 years.

Marek Mejssner

The Polish Technological Platform for Sustainable Energy Systems and Clean Carbon Energy comprises the following companies and institutions:

1. Alstom Power Sp. z o.o.
2. BOT GiE S.A.
3. Energy-Environment-Health Center for Advanced Technologies
www. krzew.gig.katowice.pl/gig/czt/index.php
4. RIMAMI Center of Advanced Technologies
5. Rybnik Power Plant
6. Stalowa Wola Power Plant
7. Połaniec Power Plant - Electrabel Group
8. Rafako Boiler Factory
9. Foster Wheeler Energia Polska Sp. z o.o.
10. Central Mining Institute
11. Institute for Chemical Processing of Coal
12. Institute of Power Engineering
13. Institute of Power Engineering Machines and Equipment, Silesian University of Technology
www. rie5.ise.polsl.gliwice.pl/
14. Oil and Gas Institute
15. Institute of Thermal Technology, Silesian University of Technology
16. Institute of Heat Engineering, Warsaw University of Technology
17. Polish Chamber of Power Industry and Environmental Protection
18. Katowicki Holding Węglowy SA
19. Kompania Węglowa SA
20. National Contact Point for EU Research Programs
21. PKE SA
22. Sustainable Energy Systems Scientific Network
23. Ostrołęka Power Plant Complex
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