A vital component of our daily life is energy. And coal is one of the main energy sources we use. Besides, we use the energy contained in coal to produce a third of the world’s power. When the coal burns, it releases this energy. Moreover, industry, cooking, heating, cooling, farming, lighting, healthcare, transportation, and a lot more use power produced by coal. Maybe the process of getting energy from coal is not as simple as getting a free spin. However, there are numerous measures that you must take.
The process of energy transformation of coal
First, we ground coal into a fine powder with a device called a pulverizer. Then, in order to help the coal burn more smoothly, the powdered coal and steam combine. This combination is then sent to the furnace. Burning coal heats the water in the boiler, generating steam in the process. So, the thermal energy created by burning coal converts into mechanical energy. This, then, helps to spin the turbine engine. And the steam produced by the boiler helps to turn the blades of the turbine.
The turbine engine powers the generator machine as it rotates. This converts mechanical energy into electrical energy. Moreover, it happens while the copper generating coil’s magnets spin. After that, a condenser cools the steam in the turbine, turning it from steam to water. As a result, the cycle starts over as soon as the water enters the boiler.
What other things does this process emit?
Despite being the most prevalent fossil fuel, coal is not pure oil. Coal contains a variety of measurable impurities, such as sulfur and nitrogen. So, after burning the coal, these substances release into the atmosphere. Moreover, these pollutants sometimes can combine with water vapor as they float in the air. As a result, it creates droplets of weak citric and sulfuric acid, sometimes referred to as acid rain.
Additionally, coal contains a few minute particles of minerals, such as common dirt. The minute particles remain in the coal combustion chamber as ash residue because they are not burned. So, these tiny particles entangled in the swirling combustion gasses combine with water vapor and make the smoke emitted from a coal plant’s smokestack. A close 40 of some of these particles would hardly match the width of a human hair because some of them are so tiny.
Coal’s role in delivering modern needs
Using extremely energy-intensive commodities like steel, cement, glass, and aluminum is necessary for economic progress. These materials are essential for building and developing infrastructure related to transportation, energy, housing, and water management. Here are some major industries that have used coal energy:
A crucial ingredient in the manufacture of steel worldwide is coal. It takes one tonne of metallurgical coal to make 1.3 tonnes of steel. Alternatively, it is enough to make 18 domestic refrigerators. Besides, the average amount of steel used per person in the world has progressively climbed since 2001. It has risen from 150 kg to 217 kg in 2014. This is a sign of growing living standards in developing countries. That also has resulted in an increase in demand for consumer products.
The integrated steel-making route and the electric arc furnace route are the two primary ways to produce steel. In both of them, coal is a crucial energy source and raw material (see Figure 4). For every tonne of crude steel produced using the integrated approach, based on the blast furnace and basic oxygen furnace, one requires 770 kg of coal, 1400 kg of iron ore, 150 kg of limestone, and 120 kg of recycled steel. Moreover, you can produce a tonne of crude steel using the electric arc furnace process on average using 880 kg of recycled steel, 150 kg of coal, and 43 kilograms of limestone.
The construction of contemporary infrastructures, such as roads, homes, and commercial buildings, depends heavily on steel production. Steel production provides the resources needed for a sophisticated economy. It includes those for healthcare, construction, telecommunications, better farming methods, better transportation systems, access to clean water, and affordable, reliable energy.
Concrete is a necessary building element for infrastructure around the world. And it primarily requires cement. Even one needs it in amounts second only to water in terms of yearly consumption. Building homes, bridges, roads, dams, harbors, and airports all require cement. So, to melt raw materials such as limestone, silica, iron oxide, and alumina, coal is used as an energy source in the production of cement. One tonne of cement requires around 200 kg of coal to create. Meanwhile, one cubic meter of concrete requires roughly 300–400 kg of cement. China offers a hint on the size of the cement (and consequently coal) demand that would be necessary for the ensuing decades.
How does it affect the environment?
Coal is made from carbon, just like other fossil fuels. So, when the coal is burnt, the carbon reacts with oxygen in the atmosphere to generate carbon dioxide which is an odorless and colorless gas. It is one of the many gasses that can capture heat from the earth in the atmosphere. Besides, many scientists think that this is what’s causing global warming that might be changing the planet’s climate.
Although it appears that burning coal is a nasty process and this was many years ago. Things have changed over the past 20 years. Moreover, scientists have developed ways to collect the contaminants present in coal before they are discharged into the atmosphere.