Pros and Cons of Coal

What are the pros and cons of a coal mine for environment, employment and others.

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15 hours ago, Johnny Mortel said:

What are the pros and cons of a coal mine for environment, employment and others.

Pro's 1- Those living in Siberia wont be so cold in the winter.

         2- Politicians get lots of "donations" and later nice directorships

Con's 1-Environment stuffed

          2- Less employment then renewables

          3- More expensive than renewables 

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(edited)

1-You can give work to very raw people, that anyway couldn't work in other things
2-Is relatively cheap and isn't such a bad investment if is for export
3-There are various types of coal, from Anthrancite and Bituminous to Sub-bituminous and lignite, and various large mines only have lignite deposits that can be as deep as 2000 feet underground (patagonia)
4-Is not as cheap as natural gas for power generation, unless you are far away from the gas basins and it needs to be transported
5-for those reasons is a good investment if is for export-only, because the countries that still import coal, import it as a competitor to LNG, which is anyway pretty expensive, LNG must be at 250-500 dollars per ton

Edited by Sebastian Meana

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(edited)

Coal is classically used in steel-making, both for its intense heat and for the pure carbon in anthracite (hard coal).  It is a very nice (and cheap) fuel for both residential and commercial space heating, although not advisable in areas where there is a dense population (such as London) or where the population lives in a steep-sided valley where you get these thermal inversions, trapping the burn gases.  Coal is now used in home heating in small numbers in Upstate New York, starting at about 60 miles North of New York City.  There is still quite a bit of anthracite available in small coal mines in that area.  Coal is quite cheap relative to #2 heating oil (the equivalent of diesel). 

The USA has bulk coal-export handling facilities in Virginia, in the area of Portsmouth  (where the James River enters Chesapeake Bay).  It comes in by rail via the Norfolk Southern, then loaded onto ships and where it goes, I dunno. It is a very, very busy coal port. Somebody has big customers somewhere, that's for sure!

The unexplored use for coal is its conversion into diesel truck fuel.  Diesel from coal apparently burns very cleanly, no wax components in the fuel, it ignites at low temperatures and seems to run better than diesel distilled from oil.  It is not really exploited for that due to the "rust principle;"  as long as the rust holds the old systems in place, it continues in the old path.  I predict coal will have a rejuvenation, specifically for its ability to be converted into high-grade diesel  (and probably also jet-fuel). 

Edited by Jan van Eck
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6 minutes ago, Jan van Eck said:

The unexplored use for coal is its conversion into diesel truck fuel.  Diesel from coal apparently burns very cleanly, no wax components in the fuel, it ignites at low temperatures and seems to run better than diesel distilled from oil.  It is not really exploited for that due to the "rust principle;"  as long as the rust holds the old systems in place, it continues in the old path.  I predict coal will have a rejuvenation, specifically for its ability to be converted into high-grade diesel  (and probably also jet-fuel)

Just wanted to explore a point:  We all know, and we are constantly reminded, that battery/solar panel/wind turbine technologies are advancing, and will continue to advance, which is a good thing for the entire world (I think).  But there is never any information about coal technology advances.  Are there no scientists working on coal technology?  Wouldn't it make sense that developments into the use of coal will continue such that 10 years from now we could be using coal in ways that today are not imaginable?  

 

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Just in reply to a few point made here. Employment in coal tends to be low in advanced countries, mines are increasingly automated with those employed having to be well educated and trained. Starting any new mining or generating plants is a large outlay with a very uncertain future. On the other hand even whilst getting competitive with coal for electricity solar employs far more people, another bonus for it.

Using coal for home heating even in rural areas seems expensive and polluting (I have even stopped using wood to heat my house as recent research has shown even with modern wood burners particulates are present in the house, not something I want my son exposed to). Also as far as I'm aware banned from use in many countries. Liquefaction of coal takes energy and produces waste products is probably why this isn't done.

Now and then I see in passing a research paper coming out on improving coal use, but costs have been static for a considerable time suggesting that this technology has levelled off to the most part. Also saw a coal plant in the USA that was going to be the next great thing in generation tech, went billions over budget and was ditched (something like $7billion down the drain), can't remember the name of it now. Probably has put most investors off it.   

Coal will remain in a vastly reduced way used in some industries but as the easiest sources have been used and the industry shrinks so the cost of coal will increase. But even with these remaining niche (comparatively) markets other cheaper cleaner methods will come on line.

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(edited)

14 hours ago, Dan Warnick said:

Just wanted to explore a point:  We all know, and we are constantly reminded, that battery/solar panel/wind turbine technologies are advancing, and will continue to advance, which is a good thing for the entire world (I think).  But there is never any information about coal technology advances.  Are there no scientists working on coal technology?  Wouldn't it make sense that developments into the use of coal will continue such that 10 years from now we could be using coal in ways that today are not imaginable?  

 

Short answer:  yes.  Coal is a useful raw material. 

Coal can, presumably, be used as a feedstock for other materials, including plastics, perhaps carbon-fiber composite, and medicines. But will it?  Probably not.  We live in a world populated by the hysterical.  Hysteria politics shuts everything down. 

P.S.  I see coal coming back as a fuel for railway steam engines.  What is little known outside rail circles is that the last iterations of steam locomotives out-performed diesel engines in terms of fuel use.  The "oil engine"  [diesel] only made its headway due to rail labor unions, which up-staffed the steam engines and put the labor costs to the point where they could not be economically run.  As the diesel did not need a "fireman," the locomotive could be run by one man, not three. That is a big difference in the wage bill. 

Edited by Jan van Eck
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55 minutes ago, Jan van Eck said:

Short answer:  yes.  Coal is a useful raw material. 

Coal can, presumably, be used as a feedstock for other materials, including plastics, perhaps carbon-fiber composite, and medicines. But will it?  Probably not.  We live in a world populated by the hysterical.  Hysteria politics shuts everything down. 

P.S.  I see coal coming back as a fuel for railway steam engines.  What is little known outside rail circles is that the last iterations of steam locomotives out-performed diesel engines in terms of fuel use.  The "oil engine"  [diesel] only made its headway due to rail labor unions, which up-staffed the steam engines and put the labor costs to the point where they could not be economically run.  As the diesel did not need a "fireman," the locomotive could be run by one man, not three. That is a big difference in the wage bill. 

One mans hysteria is another mans common sense. If coal could be extracted, moved, used and the waste products dealt with in an environmentally and economic way I'd have no problems with it.

On using coal again in trains I don't see the logic here. I do have some experience as to be able to pay my way through college (studying Arboriculture) I worked on steam trains on the Paignton to Kingswear line UK. I have also worked on diesel train engines, but not in trains they were used as emergency power at a nuclear plant. But anyway yes the diesel's that took over from the steam trains were in many ways terrible. But diesel trains themselves are now old fashion and electric is the new king. Even in areas were it's not economic to run the power lines for electric trains battery powered trains are starting to come in. Coal fired steam trains were dirty as hell and putting scrubbers on trains doesn't seem economic. They also leak oil all over the place. This was still found to be an issue when a company tried to develop a steam powered car (not with coal), it seemed to have been quite a good idea but they couldn't get over the oil issues.

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12 minutes ago, DA? said:

One mans hysteria is another mans common sense. If coal could be extracted, moved, used and the waste products dealt with in an environmentally and economic way I'd have no problems with it.

On using coal again in trains I don't see the logic here. I do have some experience as to be able to pay my way through college (studying Arboriculture) I worked on steam trains on the Paignton to Kingswear line UK. I have also worked on diesel train engines, but not in trains they were used as emergency power at a nuclear plant. But anyway yes the diesel's that took over from the steam trains were in many ways terrible. But diesel trains themselves are now old fashion and electric is the new king. Even in areas were it's not economic to run the power lines for electric trains battery powered trains are starting to come in. Coal fired steam trains were dirty as hell and putting scrubbers on trains doesn't seem economic. They also leak oil all over the place. This was still found to be an issue when a company tried to develop a steam powered car (not with coal), it seemed to have been quite a good idea but they couldn't get over the oil issues.

You can get over all those technical issues with basic applied engineering.  Both materials and machining have come a very long way from that available in 1951.  Modern CNC machines can cut metal and have perfect reproducibility down to 0.0002"   I bought a Korean CNC mill for one of my factories that had a device called a Renishaw probe that went into each bore hole with a probe to measure the out-of-tolerance, it could ensure reproducibility down to two-tenths.  In the days of steam the machining was done on a manual lathe with the machinist setting and doing each cut manually by turning st-up dials.  Not to take anything away from those guys, but you can see how they had no chance to duplicate such tolerances as you can get from a CNC machine.  That machine I bought )(from Korea) had a 42-inch mounting table and a 40-tool auto tool-changer,it could change a tool piece in less than a half second.  It only cost me $116,000. Amazing what machines can do today.  Oil leaks?  You can cut steel to a tolerance that is below the ability of oil to squeeze between.

Also, today you have these synthetic seals made of materials that were unknown in 1951.  Modern seals will totally stop any oil migration, and protect the bearings inside.  Today most such bearings are "sealed for life," twenty years later and the seal still holds the grease inside and the bearing has effectively zero wear.   The bearings on my BMW which is now 19 years old are still as perfect as the day they went into the car; alldue to excellent automatic machining and superior seals.  

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57 minutes ago, DA? said:

One mans hysteria is another mans common sense. If coal could be extracted, moved, used and the waste products dealt with in an environmentally and economic way I'd have no problems with it.

On using coal again in trains I don't see the logic here. I do have some experience as to be able to pay my way through college (studying Arboriculture) I worked on steam trains on the Paignton to Kingswear line UK. I have also worked on diesel train engines, but not in trains they were used as emergency power at a nuclear plant. But anyway yes the diesel's that took over from the steam trains were in many ways terrible. But diesel trains themselves are now old fashion and electric is the new king. Even in areas were it's not economic to run the power lines for electric trains battery powered trains are starting to come in. Coal fired steam trains were dirty as hell and putting scrubbers on trains doesn't seem economic. They also leak oil all over the place. This was still found to be an issue when a company tried to develop a steam powered car (not with coal), it seemed to have been quite a good idea but they couldn't get over the oil issues.

Another practical option is to fit diesel electrics with pantographs so they can use overhead electricity when available and switch to diesel when not on an electrified line. 

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9 minutes ago, NickW said:

Another practical option is to fit diesel electrics with pantographs so they can use overhead electricity when available and switch to diesel when not on an electrified line. 

I don't know if this is done already. The diesel engines aren't direct drives to the wheel but run a generator that then powers electric motors (at least on the ones I've seen), so not that difficult. But batteries for most routes without power lines run along them seems to be the choice now judging by whats been done. It may sound simple using a diesel but from what I've seen it's not quite so with these train systems.

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59 minutes ago, Jan van Eck said:

You can get over all those technical issues with basic applied engineering.  Both materials and machining have come a very long way from that available in 1951.  Modern CNC machines can cut metal and have perfect reproducibility down to 0.0002"   I bought a Korean CNC mill for one of my factories that had a device called a Renishaw probe that went into each bore hole with a probe to measure the out-of-tolerance, it could ensure reproducibility down to two-tenths.  In the days of steam the machining was done on a manual lathe with the machinist setting and doing each cut manually by turning st-up dials.  Not to take anything away from those guys, but you can see how they had no chance to duplicate such tolerances as you can get from a CNC machine.  That machine I bought )(from Korea) had a 42-inch mounting table and a 40-tool auto tool-changer,it could change a tool piece in less than a half second.  It only cost me $116,000. Amazing what machines can do today.  Oil leaks?  You can cut steel to a tolerance that is below the ability of oil to squeeze between.

Also, today you have these synthetic seals made of materials that were unknown in 1951.  Modern seals will totally stop any oil migration, and protect the bearings inside.  Today most such bearings are "sealed for life," twenty years later and the seal still holds the grease inside and the bearing has effectively zero wear.   The bearings on my BMW which is now 19 years old are still as perfect as the day they went into the car; alldue to excellent automatic machining and superior seals.  

This company that tried to make the steam car wasn't that long ago.

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3 minutes ago, DA? said:

This company that tried to make the steam car wasn't that long ago.

What those guys did was assemble a steam piston machine with a flash boiler, the pistons being arranged in a Delta formation.  It was a great technical design.  They gave it up because they could not figure out how to get driving pressure up in 30 seconds, which they figured was the greatest amount of time that a buyer was willing to wait to depart.  At that point the remote starter had not been developed.  With a remote starter the owner points and clicks the remote and the steam engine lights up, starting the development of hot steam.  by the time the owner gets to the car and buckles up inside, the pressure is up and off he goes. 

The developers could get the cold-start time down to three minutes, but not to 30 seconds.  That is why they gave up. 

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10 minutes ago, DA? said:

I don't know if this is done already. The diesel engines aren't direct drives to the wheel but run a generator that then powers electric motors (at least on the ones I've seen), so not that difficult. But batteries for most routes without power lines run along them seems to be the choice now judging by whats been done. It may sound simple using a diesel but from what I've seen it's not quite so with these train systems.

The combination diesel-electric and third rail pick-up was done many decades ago, back in the 1950s I think, by the New Haven Railroad, so they could run their big engines based on the F-7 design into Grand Central Station in NYC through the tunnels.  the NHRR is now Metro-North, owned by the State of Connecticut in part (together with NY State).  Although Metro North still uses diesels on the secondary feeders, it requires commuters into NY to change trains in either Bridgeport or Stamford, where there are cross-platform changes available. 

Incidentally the mechanical-drive diesel locomotive was developed decades and decades ago, in Germany.  they use a hydrostatic oil transmission and a series of prop-shafts and split differentials at the wheel truck.  It is a neat system, very compact and reliable.  Those transmissions will easily last 50 years.  I am planning to build a new type of trainset for commuter use using those transmissions, and using a marine torpedo-boat engine for the powerplant. Should be interesting. 

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Answers here are so last century. Very myopic. Like looking at the future by looking in the rear view mirror.

Everyone is thinking in terms of BURNING coal. So old school.

The future of coal rests in developing the new coal-to-energy processes that bypass burning and combustion altogether. All CO2 is captured in the process. No emissions. Once this technology is mature, coal will once again become an environmentally clean plentiful energy source.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/510736/a-cleaner-way-to-use-coal/ for instance.

The future of coal is in the future, not in the past. It will be re-commercialized using completely new and different technologies, not 'modernizing' technological relics from the past.

Stop thinking 'old technology' for 'new answers'. Otherwise, you end up with zombie industries, and the rest of the world just passes you by. Stop trying to transform the 'old way', or 'the way things were done', into the way of the future. Progress doesn't work that way. Otherwise our cars would still have wooden wheels as relics from the carriage days.

Yet even when the ICE started to dominate, the carriage manufacturers continued to fight back, making better and better carriages on their assembly lines (yes, the carriages were mass produced on simplified assembly lines with interchangeable parts before Ford made his cars on one).

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3 hours ago, Justin Thyme said:

Answers here are so last century. Very myopic. Like looking at the future by looking in the rear view mirror.

Everyone is thinking in terms of BURNING coal. So old school.

The future of coal rests in developing the new coal-to-energy processes that bypass burning and combustion altogether. All CO2 is captured in the process. No emissions. Once this technology is mature, coal will once again become an environmentally clean plentiful energy source.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/510736/a-cleaner-way-to-use-coal/ for instance.

The future of coal is in the future, not in the past. It will be re-commercialized using completely new and different technologies, not 'modernizing' technological relics from the past.

Stop thinking 'old technology' for 'new answers'. Otherwise, you end up with zombie industries, and the rest of the world just passes you by. Stop trying to transform the 'old way', or 'the way things were done', into the way of the future. Progress doesn't work that way. Otherwise our cars would still have wooden wheels as relics from the carriage days.

Yet even when the ICE started to dominate, the carriage manufacturers continued to fight back, making better and better carriages on their assembly lines (yes, the carriages were mass produced on simplified assembly lines with interchangeable parts before Ford made his cars on one).

This article you put in is almost 6 years old. Whats happened to it? This process in the article sounds very hard to run in an economical way with coal not exactly a nice clean product but includes allsorts of impurities making the process difficult. Seems Kemper may have killed the dream of clean coal. Sometimes you just have to admit that an industry has hit a dead end and move on.

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1 hour ago, DA? said:

This article you put in is almost 6 years old. Whats happened to it? This process in the article sounds very hard to run in an economical way with coal not exactly a nice clean product but includes allsorts of impurities making the process difficult. Seems Kemper may have killed the dream of clean coal. Sometimes you just have to admit that an industry has hit a dead end and move on.

It was the first one that came up in my search for sources.

There is a beta commercial project in beta stage, and plans for an operation that will power a small community. I did not bother to dig up these recent sources, the idea was to just present the basic concept.

But what is really interesting is that, even though it is six years old, it is not widely known in America. it has been suppressed, at least in terms of getting favorable press. However, in other countries in the world, it is being eagerly pursued. it is a perfect example of America trying to kill off innovative technologies in order to preserve their investment in old zombie industries until they milk every last penny out of them.

America tried to kill off the EV, and so now China and Europe are far ahead of it. America is being left behind at a faster and faster pace.

 

See this reference, for example, for what is happening in Japan., https://academic.oup.com/ce/article/2/2/126/5055431

Edited by Justin Thyme
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On 11/8/2018 at 5:08 AM, DA? said:

One mans hysteria is another mans common sense.

Nope. Hysteria is devoid of common sense. There are sober facts and then there is uninformed fear--and ne'er the two shall meet. 

it's possible that one man's common sense is VIEWED as hysteria, however. 

@Jan van Eck makes a good point I think. it's unlikely that coal will find a new purpose given it's tarnished reputation; it's doubtful anyone will put much effort into finding out if it makes sense to do so because people have already decided that COAL BAD, SOLAR (or insert alternative energy here) GOOD.

 

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On 11/7/2018 at 1:49 PM, DA? said:

I have even stopped using wood to heat my house as recent research has shown even with modern wood burners particulates are present in the house, not something I want my son exposed to). 

 

yeah? tell me more plz. Can you point me towards a source?

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28 minutes ago, Rodent said:

yeah? tell me more plz. Can you point me towards a source?

The statement that particulates in the gases outflow are substantial is true.  However, that goes up the chimney.  If it is getting inside the house, then presumably either there are leaks present between the stove/fireplace and the house inside,or the outside gases are coming back in, typically when there is a temperature inversion outside. You can find quite a bit of data in articles by WIllem Post, he writes them on Windtaskforce.org, the Wind Task Force is a website set up for Maine wind-machine opponents.  

Try here:   http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/a-comparison-of-wood-chip-and-oil-fired-power-plants

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42 minutes ago, Rodent said:

Nope. Hysteria is devoid of common sense. There are sober facts and then there is uninformed fear--and ne'er the two shall meet. 

it's possible that one man's common sense is VIEWED as hysteria, however. 

@Jan van Eck makes a good point I think. it's unlikely that coal will find a new purpose given it's tarnished reputation; it's doubtful anyone will put much effort into finding out if it makes sense to do so because people have already decided that COAL BAD, SOLAR (or insert alternative energy here) GOOD.

 

Coal for heating will have a huge future in Vermont once the Progressives finally institute their "carbon tax."  What is happening is that after this last election the Democrats/Progressives have a super-majority in the State Legislature, and thus can override the Governor's veto any time they choose.  That impliies that their favorite program, the unilateral carbon tax, is coming soon. Once there is such tax, then the resourceful rural Vermonters, who are outnumbered by the Progressives (Sanderites) of Burlington and Montpelier, will resort to smuggling of anthracite coal from New York State, which vendors will conveniently bag in 50-lb bags for you.  The coal will be smuggled in over the Border in vans and pick-up trucks, stuff below the weight limit that attracts inspections by the commercial motor vehicle inspectors at those highway checkpoints.  Lots and lots of coal is coming soon, it is cheap, easy to handle, and has lots of heat content. 

And that is how the ingenious and hard-working rural folks outmaneuver the socialists in the cities. They smuggle.

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6 hours ago, Rodent said:

yeah? tell me more plz. Can you point me towards a source?

Think I found a couple of papers on it through sciencedaily.com and can't remember where else.

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6 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

The statement that particulates in the gases outflow are substantial is true.  However, that goes up the chimney.  If it is getting inside the house, then presumably either there are leaks present between the stove/fireplace and the house inside,or the outside gases are coming back in, typically when there is a temperature inversion outside. You can find quite a bit of data in articles by WIllem Post, he writes them on Windtaskforce.org, the Wind Task Force is a website set up for Maine wind-machine opponents.  

Try here:   http://www.windtaskforce.org/profiles/blogs/a-comparison-of-wood-chip-and-oil-fired-power-plants

I've just about most of my life when living in cold countries have had wood burners and as a plumber (qualified in UK & OZ) have worked and installed many. Even when a system is installed and working in the totally correct manor you still end up with particulates inside the house. Normally most of this will occur when opening the stove to refill or when cleaning out the ash.

I have also been trained as a fireman (when working on a nuclear plant this was my emergency job) and also as an Arborist. Both these jobs have increased my awareness of the dangers in smoke from wood, it's amazing the amount of different toxic material that is produced. Having a young son I try to reduce the risks he is exposed to.

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6 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

Coal for heating will have a huge future in Vermont once the Progressives finally institute their "carbon tax."  What is happening is that after this last election the Democrats/Progressives have a super-majority in the State Legislature, and thus can override the Governor's veto any time they choose.  That impliies that their favorite program, the unilateral carbon tax, is coming soon. Once there is such tax, then the resourceful rural Vermonters, who are outnumbered by the Progressives (Sanderites) of Burlington and Montpelier, will resort to smuggling of anthracite coal from New York State, which vendors will conveniently bag in 50-lb bags for you.  The coal will be smuggled in over the Border in vans and pick-up trucks, stuff below the weight limit that attracts inspections by the commercial motor vehicle inspectors at those highway checkpoints.  Lots and lots of coal is coming soon, it is cheap, easy to handle, and has lots of heat content. 

And that is how the ingenious and hard-working rural folks outmaneuver the socialists in the cities. They smuggle.

Pollution also has a impact of brain function, sounds like a feed back loop going on.

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