[Search the Web]

[] [Canada 411] » Halifax » Local News » Story
City Site Guide
»  Halifax Daily News
»  Global Maritimes
»  Global National
»  Global Sunday
»  Local News
»  Atlantic News
»  Sports
»  Mooseheads
»  Around Town
•  Entertainment & Events
•  Sports Events
•  Live Music
•  Movies
•  Restaurants & Bars
»  Contests
»  Forums
»  Halifax Home
»  Sensible Schmooze
Sensible Schmooze
»  At the movies
»  In Your View
»  The Parts Department
Energy from coal without burning it?
Scientists say they know how to do it
The Daily News

Don’t hang up your picks and shovels just yet, fellas.

A new chemical process could make Cape Breton coal the environmentally friendly fuel of the future. A scientist at the Los Alomos National Laboratory has discovered a method to extract energy from coal without burning it.

“Holy jumpin’s,” said Kevin Murphy, president of the Cape Breton Miners’ Co-operative.

“If you don’t even have to burn it and you can get energy from it, that would be wonderful.”

The process, developed by physicist Hans-Joachim Ziock, involves using gas streams to strip hydrogen and carbon from coal, which are then reacted with water to make even more hydrogen and a waste stream of carbon dioxide gas. The hydrogen will power a fuel cell, which chemically converts it into heat and water.

“So there is no combustion to produce the electricity,” Ziock said in an interview from his lab in New Mexico. “Coal can be consumed completely cleanly.”

None of the contaminants in coal will be released to the atmosphere through the process, said Ziock, who hopes to capture the carbon dioxide in a carbon-based rock similar to limestone and bury it again.

“This particular process is in a theory stage,” he said.

Zeca Corp. of Alberta hopes to licence the technology and build a pilot plant within five years.

Greenhouse gases are transparent to rays from the sun, but prevent those rays from being bounced back into space. Scientists say the buildup of such gases is causing the Earth’s temperature to rise, melting glaciers and disrupting weather patterns.

The most important greenhouse gas is carbon monoxide, produced by the burning of coal, oil and gas. The controversial Kyoto protocol would force the world’s nations to steadily reduce the amount of carbon monoxide they pump into the atmosphere.

Ziock estimates his process will be 11/2 times as expensive as simply burning coal.

“It’s always cheaper to throw your garbage out the window than it is to pay somebody to take care of it,” he said. “What we have here is a process which extracts the garbage, and then actually handles it.”

The coal field that lies beneath the mothballed Donkin Mine holds an estimated 800 million tonnes. Murphy’s co-operative is hoping to see the mine back in operation by 2003, employing about 200 people.

“That mine is going to last a hell of a long time,” he said.

Any process that could transfer coal into clean energy without burning it might help to keep miners employed, Murphy said.

“It would certainly be something to look at,” he said.

“Coal does have a bad reputation with the environment, let’s face it.”

Much of Cape Breton’s coal is sulphurous.

But Ziock believes even that coal could be used to make energy without burning.

“It should not cause a real problem,” he said.

© Copyright 2002 The Daily News


Search | About Us | Contact Us | Advertising | Privacy | Terms | FAQ | Site Map | Our Cities | U.S. Cities
Copyright © 2002 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest Global Communications Corp.
All rights reserved. Copyright terms & conditions
Optimized for browser versions 4.0 and higher.