Rob Warren

Table of Contents


Presentation 1 - Coal: Fossil Fuel of the Past, Present, and Future

Questions from the First Presentation

  1. How are contaminants scrubbed from the exhaust gases?
  2. How is coal burned? Is it better to gasify first? Can an old power plant be modified to use a more efficient combustion technique?
  3. How has American coal mining changed in recent decades? Why?
  4. What fraction of world coal reserves can be economically extracted?
  5. Can coal be made clean? How expensive is it to scrub the exhaust gases of CO2?
  6. Can the coalification process be accelerated?
  7. What environmental damage is caused by coal mining? by burning coal to generate electricity? Describe the air quality in Beijing! (Feel free to ask Peter Tu)
  8. What were those green bars on the periodic table?
  9. What are the most significant contaminants in coal that cause human health problems and environmental damage? What cost is (or would be) associated with removing them?

Presentation 2 - Ole Clean Coal

Questions from the Second Presentation

  1. How effective are the various washing methods? Are there clear advantages to one method or another?
  2. In your presentation you described a variety of methods for purifying coal to improve the efficiency of plants burning the coal; what happens to the variety of heavy metals in coal after washing, and if so, what's done them? Also: do the heavy metals released when coal is burned accumulate in the environment?

Some Additional Questions

  1. The Sleipner West field off Stavanger, Norway, was the world's first CCS facility. It began operating in 1996. What is its scale, and why have so few other installations to capture and store carbon been developed?
  2. Which has caused more radiation-induced cancer deaths: nuclear power and testing, including Chernobyl, or burning coal?
  3. Some people call for the world to cease building new coal-fired plants immediately. Others count on CCS to allow us to burn our significant coal resources without suffering the warming consequences. Which policy makes more sense?
  4. Coal produces the least expensive electricity we have at present. On the other hand, mountain-top removal has arisen lately in a period of cheap electricity from coal, presumably because it is cheaper for the mining companies to extract the coal without worrying much about the environmental consequences. Why don't the coal companies simply charge more for the coal so they can extract it in a safe and environmentally responsible way? What would undercut the cost of the coal-generated electricity?

~Peter Saeta 2010 March 18 at 08:17 PM PST


  1. Youguo, He. China’s Coal Demand Outlook for 2020 and Analysis of Coal Supply Capacity. China Coal Industry Research and Consulting Co. Ltd. IEA, 2003.
  2. Cleaner Coal in China. IEA, 2009.
  3. BBC News, 105 die in China mine explosion.
  4. BBC News, Deadly blast in China coal mine.
  5. BBC News, Deadly mine blast traps dozens in north-eastern China.
  6. The Coal Resource – A Comprehensive Overview of Coal. World Coal Institute, 2005
  7. Pierce, BS and KO Dennen. An Introduction to Coal Quality. The National Coal Resource Assessment Overview. USDI, USGS, 2009
  8. The Future of Coal – Options for a Carbon-Constrained World. MIT Study, 2007
  9. Hawkins, D, D Lashof, and R Williams. What to do about Coal, Scientific American, 2006
  10. Sundquist, E, R Burruss, S Faulkner, R Gleason, J Harden, Y Kharaka, L Tieszen, and M Waldrop. Carbon Sequestration to Mitigate Climate Change, USGS, 2008.
  11. Biello, D. Burying Climate Change, Scientific American, pp. 23-25, November 2009.
  12. Electric Power Annual, 2007. Energy Information Administration, US Dept of Energy.
  13. Kraushaar, JJ, RA Ristinen. Energy and Problems of a Technical Society, 2nd Ed, 1993.

Initial Outline

General Topics

  • What is coal? How does it form? Are there various forms? What are the differences?
  • Where can/do we mine for coal?
  • In what ways can we use the energy from coal?
  • How do we get from coal to electricity?

Coal and the Environment

  • What does coal usage release as by-products?
  • What are the different methods/techniques for carbon capture and storage?
  • Where and what are some current projects that involve CCS?
  • What are the economic advantages/disadvantages to employing CCS techniques at new or old coal plants?
  • What are the environmental repurcussions for different storage methods?
  • What else can we do with CO2? Fischer-Tropsch?


  • How has coal been used historically (how far back do we have details) and how important is it to a developing nation/economy?
  • What is the current usage, worldwide, of coal?
  • What trends do we expect for coal usage? What does this mean in terms of CO2 production?
  • What can we do to keep developing countries from resorting to coal for energy? China? India?

Sources or Stuff to Look Into


Rob here are some places I would recommed looking: USGS coal assessment CO2 sequestration I also have papers that are on CO2 sequestration and not so geology intensive if you want them -Max