Clean coal technologies are a family of new technological innovations that are alleged to be environmentally superior to the technologies commonly used today.
It is the name attributed to coal chemically washed of minerals and impurities, sometimes gasified, burned and the resulting flue gases treated with steam, with the purpose of almost completely eradicating sulphur dioxide and re burned so as to make the carbon dioxide in the flue gas economically recoverable. The carbon dioxide can then be captured and stored instead of being released into the atmosphere (for instance carbon capture and storage ).
There is a long history of environmental concerns with this smelly fossil fuel and King Edward I in 1306 decreed, “Who so ever burns coal in my presence shall suffer the loss of his head”
Some environmental groups (e.g. Greenpeace) assert that the concept of “clean coal” is largely “green wash”. These groups also often state that emissions and wastes are not avoided, merely transferred from one waste stream to another and that there is no such thing. Greenpeace maintains, the contaminants “can be released via the fly ash, the gaseous air emissions, water outflow or the ash left at the bottom after burning. Ultimately, they still end up polluting the environment.”
Examples of this technology currently in operation or under development around the world include:
Undoubtedly, renewable energy, like wind and solar are far better options than trying to clean fossil fuels, and spending money in the renewables direction makes better environmental and in the long term, economic sense. In the short to medium term natural gas is a better option than coal. However, we already have renewable technologies and clean resources available now – we do not need to wait for coal scrubbing technologies or nuclear.