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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » August 1, 2014
AGH University of Science and Technology
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Joining Forces for Advanced Coal Technologies
August 1, 2014   
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The AGH University of Science and Technology is part of a group of top European universities and research institutes working on innovations in the energy sector. It coordinates the work of the Polish Colocation Centre as part of the European Union’s InnoEnergy Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC InnoEnergy).

KIC InnoEnergy brings together scientists from Poland, germany, Belgium, Spain, Sweden and France who conduct joint research into coal and gas technologies. They also educate students and promote entrepreneurship in the science sector.

Clean coal technologies aim to enable more efficient energy production and a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists are working not only on methods for capturing and storing carbon dioxide but also on its efficient conversion into fuels and hydrocarbons. The goal is to enable european economies to continue to use coal without harming the climate.

The researchers are developing technologies combining coal-based power with renewable and nuclear energy. Taking part in these innovative projects are companies from the power and chemical sectors.

KIC InnoEnergy is a consortium of scientific and industrial partners operating within framework of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT). The consortium is composed of six Colocation Centres and aims to develop innovative technologies and put them into practice. The Polish colocation Centre is managed by the CC Poland Plus company based in Krakow and its research activities are coordinated by the AGH University of Science and Technology’s Vice-Rector for cooperation, Professor Tomasz Szmuc.

Scientists and businesses led by the Silesian University of Technology work on developing advanced low-emission coal-based power plants. The goal is to increase the efficiency of electricity generation and reduce carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions. Other projects are associated with advanced technologies for the production of electricity and heat from coal and biomass. Research includes work on coal combustion, technologies involving high temperature and pressure, new materials such as alloys and composites, efficient sorbents and technologies for capturing carbon dioxide and other undesirable products of the combustion process.

“Even if we have efficient technologies for capturing gases there will still be the problem of how to store them, especially how to store large amounts of carbon dioxide,” says Professor Szmuc. He adds that there is no public consent in Europe on the underground storage of carbon dioxide despite the presence of advanced methods for monitoring and analyzing geological structures. As a result, the only thing that can be done is to inject the gas into geological formations under the seabed during the process of extracting petroleum or natural gas, according to Professor Szmuc. Carbon dioxide injection in the last phase of the extraction process makes it possible to increase the amount of the recovered fuel. This makes it possible to improve the efficiency of extraction and get rid of the carbon dioxide at the same time.

The Coal Gas project (among others mentioned above) is being coordinated by the AGH UST. It includes developing a system for the removal of mercury compounds in the process of producing of electricity from coal. “EU regulations on reducing mercury emissions will come into force in the near future,” says Professor Szmuc.

The researchers are also dealing with the problem of biomass gasification or its co-firing with coal. Biomass normally contains up to 60 percent of water but the efficiency of the combustion process is higher if the biomass is dried before being burned. Another issue is gasification of waste – it is necessary not only to get rid of excess gases in an environmental-friendly manner but also to transform it into a source of energy.

Thanks to KIC InnoEnergy it is easier for Polish universities to compete for funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program. Partners for innovative projects are easy to find, research conducted by individual centres is complementary and an industrial partner is also available. Additionally, KIC InnoEnergy offers M.Sc. and Ph.D. degree courses.

KIC InnoEnergy has an annual budget of 100-150 million euros, of which a quarter is provided by the EIT. The remaining part of the budget comes from sources including universities, research institutes, the industrial and banking sector, and central and local government organizations. The Polish Collocation Centre includes the AGH UST, the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, the Wroc³aw University of Technology, the Central Mining institute in Katowice, the Institute for chemical Processing of Coal in Zabrze, the Tauron group and other companies with a key role in the Polish energy sector.

Karolina Olszewska
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