The newsLINK Group - Surprising Ways to Use Coal

Editorial Library Category: Mining Topics: Mining, Coal Title: Surprising Ways to Use Coal Author: newsLINK Staff Synopsis: You probably know that coal is an important and abundant source of energy. In fact, it is so important that coal still heats approximately 48 percent of U.S. homes during the winter months. Editorial: Surprising Ways to Use Coal 4064 South Highland Drive, Millcreek, Utah 84124 │ │ (v) 801.676.9722 │ (tf) 855.747.4003 │ (f) 801.742.5803 Editorial Library | © The newsLINK Group LLC 1 You probably know that coal is an important and abundant source of energy. In fact, it is so important that coal still heats approximately 48 percent of U.S. homes during the winter months. But coal is more than just a heat source. The following list includes ten other great ways coal is being used today. Baking Soda Coal stacks emit CO 2 and greenhouse gases that can be captured and converted into mineral products like baking soda. Not only that, but the baking soda is extremely pure and, as a result, is easy to sell. The mineralization process has three stages: Gas handling. This consists of capturing and cooling hot flue gas to room temperature, then separating the water and heat from heavy metals like mercury. Absorption. During this process, the flue gas is cleaned by removing the CO2 and acid gases it contains. The CO2 and the acid gases are combined with sodium hydroxide from the third step (electrochemical production). The CO2 and sodium hydroxide combine to make sodium bicarbonate — baking soda — and the acid gases combine with sodium hydroxide to make sulfate and nitrate salts. Whatever is left does not have any harmful chemicals or greenhouse gases left in it, so it can be safely released through the exhaust stack. Electrochemical production. Salt, water, and electricity are combined to create sodium hydroxide, hydrogen, and chorine. The thing that is great about this process is that it helps convert a potentially harmful waste product into something clean, while making useful products along the way, and it can also help companies that use the process to meet regulations by reducing pollution. In addition (if that were not enough) it can be allowed to any process that makes CO 2 , which means coal stacks are not the only application. In fact, a Texas cement factory is building a $35 million commercial-scale plant that will be completed by 2014. Once the plant is running, it will have the capacity to take 83,000 short tons of carbon dioxide and turn it into 157,000 short tons of baking soda. Another potential application is on the flue gases from natural gas plants. What can you do with baking soda? You can make beverages, effervescent salts and artificial mineral water, fire extinguishers and pharmaceuticals. You can also make baking powder, a commonly used leavening agent that bakers find useful. Concrete Most people take concrete for granted. It’s in your sidewalk and, probably, your driveway. But the science of concrete goes back a long time; in particular, the Romans made an art out of making concrete that engineers still respect, and try to imitate, today. That doesn’t mean today’s engineers haven’t managed to add some improvements. Coal fly ash has silica and alumina in it, and as a result, it can be used in combination with lime to create a durable, more environmentally friendly concrete that uses less Portland cement than would be necessary otherwise. At the same time, the resulting concrete is stronger and less porous. One ton of Portland cement produces almost one ton of CO 2 as a byproduct, but since fly ash is a byproduct from electrical generation plants, adding it to concrete puts an existing byproduct to work and reduces the amount of CO 2 that has to be created. Fly ash can be used to replace up to 25 percent of the Portland cement being used in a project. Some designers are even using a substitution rate of more than 50 percent, depending on the application. There are two kinds of fly ash: Class C from the coals found in the western U.S., and class F from the coals being mined in the southeastern U.S. and the Appalachian Mountains. Both can be used to make cement, but Class F fly ash makes a stronger concrete. Fertilizer Coal has carbon dioxide and hydrogen in it. If you put coal in a chemical reactor and add heat and pressure (the same