Coal: A Huge Part
of Energy Security
By: Bill Reid
“It is absolutely essential that we do use our coal reserves,” said Carl Michael Smith, Assistant
Secretary for the Office of Fossil Energy in addressing the 99th Regular Meeting and Convention of the Rocky Mountain Coal Mining Institute held at Copper Mountain, Colorado. “We want to make sure that the research and technology that is available will aid not only the United States, but our colleagues around the world in making sure that any coal that is used, is used in the most environmentally friendly way, used with the most advanced technology and not only provide America’s energy security, but security for our colleagues around the world.” The subject of the keynote address given by Smith was Administration Initiative Toward Climate Change.
“I wanted to confine my remarks today toward what I call current events, things that have occurred in the last six months in Washington, which will be of special interest to your group, but I have to talk about energy education for just a minute. It is my lifelong passion,” said Smith. Referring to his background in the oil and gas business, Smith said that he has also experience in the coal business. At his home in Oklahoma, coal mining is older than the oil and gas business, and started in about 1880 when Oklahoma was still a territory. In the oil and gas business, the first oil well was drilled in 1896, so coal really has a longer history. Hearing about energy education, oil, gas, and coal, was standard in school. It was part of the curriculum. In Oklahoma City in high school, energy education was part of the science program, along with agricultural education; students from Oklahoma were taught that they are in the energy, cattle, and wheat business.
“When I left the state at various times in my life to go to college, energy education, particularly in the last 20-30 years, has been so neglected in our schools. Primary education, and not only in the schools, but general public education,” said Smith. “So I urge all of you to get involved at whatever level you can on energy education. Get involved at your local level, involved at the state, and national level with your association. Every time a local chamber of commerce, or Lions Club, or local group invites you to speak, mention energy education as part of your talk. Work with your local school boards.” Smith said that he was passionate about education and mentioned that his office was working with industry and looked forward to working more on energy education efforts.
Smith said that he wanted to talk about three different things. One, the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships; two, the FutureGen project, which was announced by the President in February; and three, on Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, which is an international forum for carbon sequestration technology.
According to Smith, “coal is a huge part of the country’s energy security.” Over 50% of all electric generation capacity comes from coal and in the United States we are blessed with a 250-year supply. The importance of coal cannot be overemphasized. “The challenges of coal, we all know,” said Smith. “The environmental challenges, the public relations challenges, the actual operational challenges, and a lot of the work in my office, the Office of Fossil Energy, has involved those issues.” Smith said that when President Bush ran for office in 2000, he campaigned on the theme of a brand new $2 billion ten-year program for clean coal technology and the Office of Fossil Energy is now in the second year of that. There already has been one big solicitation and another is anticipated on technical projects that will demonstrate new clean coal technology in an affordable and transferable form that will bring that technology to the American people. Certainly, the challenges are there, appearing in the regular media, and one of the major challenges is the capture and control and permanent storage of carbon dioxide. Last fall, it was announced that the Department of Energy would sponsor Regional Carbon Sequestration Initiative. The public, industry, the academic community, state governments, and others were made aware of this effort and it was announced that solicitations would close on April 1. 25 replies were received and these are currently being evaluated by a team of scientists and engineers and professionals at DOE. (See Coal Leader Page 3) These regional partnerships will look at regions of the country where it would make sense for DOE to partner with industry in groups to look at sequestration on a regional basis.
Also, at the start of this year, planning for the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum began, which envisioned getting together 14 countries from around the world to join with the United States to look at the technology of carbon sequestration. The idea was that we would learn from a group of countries from all four corners of the world, which had either a large amount of coal production in their energy portfolio or were large consumers of coal. The list that involved every continent was the United States, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, China, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the nations of the European Union. The new effort was not about government policy or political debate or science or lack thereof, but to get together the best and brightest technology from those countries and solve the technology and engineering feasibility of carbon sequestration. In geologic formation, the sequestration could be deep saline aquifers, or depleted oil and gas zones, or perhaps, even hard rock sequestration. There has also been a lot of talk of other sequestration, such as ocean sequestration, and the most common is natural ambient sequestration with flowers, plants, trees, forests, and all of the agriculture that absorbs CO2.
“We are looking strictly at the feasibility from both a technical standpoint and an economic standpoint of permanent capture and storage in geological formations,” said Smith. All 14 countries expressed an interest in sharing this information and met in Washington D.C. at the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum. There were over 400 participants from those 14 countries.
Smith turned to the subject of the FutureGen project, which envisions a $1 billion working power plant of about 275 megawatts.
“We will actually sell electricity into the grid from a near zero emissions plant that will allow not only capture of carbon at the source and other pollutants at the source, but also will provide a stream of hydrogen for this hydrogen economy that we have all been talking about,” said Smith. “FutureGen has been very well received, not only by industry and the public, but also by the Congress.”
“Those are the three things that are really going on that involve coal. They are all designed to make sure that coal is part of our energy security,” said Smith. cl
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