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Terrestrial origin (mostly plant remains from mild, moist climate of 250 million years ago) Occurs in different grades, depending on C content and S content
High grade coal is high in C, low in S S occurs as disseminated iron sulfides, when coal is burned is released as SO2, leads to acid rain

Coal is the primary world energy source for electricity Advantages: Easily transportable, convenient to store, cheap to mine (traditionally), relatively large reserves left (90% of remaining fossil fuel reserves in U.S.) Disadvantages:
Coal mining is a significant source of acid mine drainage, land disturbance from strip/pit mining & is dangerous Coal burning is a major source of pollutant ash, aerosols, heavy metals, soot, CO2, CO -- more CO2 per energetic yield than CH4 or petroleum

Grades of Coal
Carbon Lignite Sub-Bituminous Bituminous Anthracite 5% 30% 60% 90% Energy Content 12k - 15k BTU/kg 15k - 21k BTU/kg 21k - 32k BTU/kg 30k - 32k BTU/kg Sulfur Content Low Med 91% 9% 99% 1% 30% 27% 97% 3% High 43% -

Bituminous Coal Lignite


Coal Consumption
30 Coal Consumption (Quads) 25
USA China Former USSR W.Europe C.-S. America Africa

15 10






OECD Countries:

Coal (billions of short tons)

100 150 200 250 300 50 0

United States Russia China Other Non-OECD Europe/Eurasia Australia/New Zealand India Africa OECD Europe Other Central & South America Other Non-OECD Asia Brazil Canada Other

Global Coal Reserves (EIA) Bituminous & Anthracite Subbituminous Lignite

Demonstrated Reserve Base (Million Short Tons)

8 10 1 10 2 104 4 104 6 104 0
4 5

1.2 105

Montana Illinois Wyoming West Virginia Kentucky Pennsylvania Ohio Colorado Texas New Mexico
EIA Data

Indiana North Dakota Michigan

U.S. Coal Reserve Regions (2007 EIA Data)

Anthracite: 1.5% (nearly all in NE Pennsylvania) Lignite: 9% (Montana, Texas, North Dakota) Subbituminous: 37% (mostly Montana, Wyoming; all west of Mississippi River) Bituminous: >53% (mostly Illinois, Kentucky, W. Virginia; nearly all east of Mississippi River)

Clean Coal
Efficiency standard coal-burning electrical generation: ~33% clean-coal technology electrical generation: ~37% US-DOE 2025 efficiency target: 60% clean-coal plants: construction costs: 200% standard electricity cost: 20% > natural gas, 170% > older coal plants


Lansing, NY

Tampa, FL

Environmental Impacts of Coal

Mining: 60% of US coal derives from strip mines ex: West Virginia 300,000 acres of hardwood forest destroyed 1000 miles of streams polluted/acidified

Environmental Impacts of Coal

Solid Wastes: a typical 500 MWatt coal-fired plant produces: 125,000 tons of ash yearly 193,000 tons of sludge (from scrubbers) 75% of waste goes to unlined landfills/pits ash contains As, Hg, Cr, Pb Atmospheric Wastes: 3,700,000 tons of CO2 10,000 tons of SO2 10,200 tons of NOx 500 tons airborne particulates 720 tons of CO 220 tons of VOCs 77 kg Hg 100 kg As 50 kg Pb

Natural Gas (Methane, CH4)

Forms in association with petroleum 25% of U.S. Energy Budget (mostly used for heating, cooking; developing use in autos, power plants) Advantages: relatively clean, requires little processing, lowest CO2 emission per energetic yield than any other fossil fuel, contributes much less to smog compared to petroleum burning Disadvantages: more difficult/expensive to transport than coal or petroleum; a potent greenhouse gas with a long lifetime -- one methane molecule contributes 20x more to greenhouse effect than one molecule of CO2 (potential for leaks is problematic)

Hydraulic Fracturing (Hydrofracking)

Used to produce gas (and sometimes petroleum) from deep underground (>5000 ft) reservoirs with low permeability & porosity
Pump large volumes of water mixed with small amount of sand and chemicals (including some known carcinogens) to fracture the rock and release the gas Concerns:
Mobilization of methane and hydrocarbons (from source rock and from fracking fluids) into shallower aquifers Methane is non-toxic, but highly flammable Very small quantities of benzene & other hydrocarbons can be toxic Increased global warming, due to escaped methane

Media & Fracking:

NPR On Point: http://onpoint.wbur.org/2011/06/10/fracking For much more information: http://www.propublica.org/series/buried-secrets-gas-drillingsenvironmental-threat



Fossil Fuel Sustainability

Pumped & consumed at phenomenal rate: estimate = 1 million years is required to form fossil fuels consumed by world every 12 months!

How long can oil last?

Known Reserves: quantity of resource known by exploration to exist, which can be recovered profitably under existing, economic conditions Current Known Reserves: ~1 trillion barrels of crude oil Current Consumption Rate: ~22 billion bbls/yr (1990) ~45 years left (but rates of consumption are rising, more important may be divergence of supply/demand)

How long can natural gas last?

Known Reserves: ~4200 trillion cubic feet Current Known Reserves: ~75 trillion cubic feet/yr (~50-60 yrs left)

How long can coal last?

Known Reserves: ~1.1-1.8 trillion short tons Current Consumption Rate: ~5.2 billion tons/year (~220 yrs left at current rates)