top of page

The Carbon Boogeyman

Climate activists check under the bed for it at night but is carbon really that bad and could it revitalize coal in Estevan?

Is there anything more vilified than coal? Politicians rail against it, companies run away from it, climate “scientists” make careers out of studying it (a result of generous government grants) university students protest its existence and climate activists condemn it as the one source of pure evil. Its death, war, famine, pestilence and your in-laws, all wrapped in one. Has a substance ever been the source of such hate? In reality, coal is a source of carbon. Carbon is a versatile element that, due to its unique properties, has many uses in a wide range of products, some of which include: Fuel: Obviously, carbon is a primary component of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. These fuels are used for heating, electricity generation, and transportation. Charcoal: This is a form of carbon that is produced by heating wood or other organic materials in the absence of air. Charcoal is used as a fuel source, typically for barbecues, as well as in art and as a garden and agricultural soil amendment. Example: The Blackwood Charcoal plant in Rattan, Oklahoma is located on the site of a former coal mine that was closed in the 1980s. It uses a process called pyrolysis to convert coal and other biomass into high-quality charcoal. The resulting product is used in a range of applications, including cooking, heating, and industrial processes. Graphite: This is a form of carbon that is used in a variety of industrial applications, including as a lubricant, in batteries, and in nuclear reactors. Graphite is also used in high-temperature applications such as crucibles, furnace linings, and electrodes for electric arc furnaces. Example: The Woxna Mine was previously a coal mine, but it was closed in the 1980s due to low demand for coal. In the early 2000s, the mine was reopened to extract graphite from the same rocks that used to contain coal. The graphite produced at the Woxna mine is used in a variety of applications, including lithium-ion batteries, fuel cells, and other high-tech products. Carbon fiber: Carbon fiber is a lightweight, strong, and durable material that is used in aerospace, automotive, and sporting goods industries. It is used to make airplane wings, car parts, and tennis rackets. Example: Carbon Clean Solutions (CCSL) plant in Tuticorin, India is located on the site of a former coal-fired power plant that was shut down due to pollution concerns. The plant uses a unique process called chemical looping to capture carbon dioxide and convert it into carbon fibers. These fibers can be used in a variety of applications, including automotive parts, aerospace components, and sporting goods. Activated carbon: Activated carbon is a form of carbon that is highly porous and has a large surface area. It is a lightweight, high-strength material that is used in a range of applications, including aerospace, automotive, and sporting goods. It is used to filter water, air, and gas, and is also used in purification processes in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, as well as in gas masks and other protective equipment. Example: Cabot Corporation's Purification Solutions facility in Marshall, Texas, USA. The facility is located on the site of a former lignite coal mine that was closed in the 1950s. The facility uses a unique process to activate carbon from a variety of sources, including coal. The resulting activated carbon is used in air and water purification, food and beverage processing, and pharmaceuticals. Carbon black: Carbon black is a fine powder that is made by burning hydrocarbons in a limited supply of air. It is used as a pigment in inks, paints, and plastics, and is also used to make tires and other rubber products. Example: The Birla Carbon plant in Trecate, Italy is located on the site of a former coal mine that was closed in the 1990s. Birla Carbon uses a proprietary process to produce carbon black from coal which is then used in a range of applications, including tires, rubber products, and plastics. Carbon nanotubes: Carbon nanotubes are tiny tubes made of carbon atoms that are used in electronics, batteries, and medical devices. They have unique electrical and mechanical properties that make them ideal for these applications. Example: The Nanocyl plant in Sambreville, Belgium is located on the site of a former coal mine that was closed in the 1980s. It produces carbon nanotubes from coal that are then used in a range of applications, including electronics, aerospace, and automotive components. These are just a few examples of the many carbon products that could all be produced in Estevan using Estevan coal. Despite the hate it receives, carbon remains a critical element in many industrial and consumer products, and its versatility, abundance and unique properties make it an essential material for modern life. Estevan could be at the forefront of a process that not only saves our coal industry but uses carbon as a source of building an entirely new clean coal value chain. Carbon by-products, when combined with with Estevan’s abundant, clean, reliable and affordable coal-powered electricity and its like-wise useful by-products: Fly ash: Fly ash is a by-product of burning coal that can be used as a replacement for cement in concrete, as a base material in road construction, as a soil amendment and as a stabilizing agent in the disposal of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Example: The Boral Resources plant in Jacksonville, Florida, USA, recycles fly ash from local coal-fired power plants and combines it with other materials to produce a type of sustainable concrete called "Greencrete" that has higher durability than traditional concrete. Ammonia: Coal gasification can produce ammonia, a chemical that is used in fertilizers, in explosives, in the production of synthetic fibers, such as nylon and rayon, in water treatment, as a refrigerant and in pharmaceuticals, such as antibiotics and antihistamines. Example: The Aquafeed Production Plant in Norway captures waste ammonia from a nearby coal-fired power plant and uses it as a feedstock for aquaculture feed production. Using waste ammonia as a feedstock for aquaculture feed not only provides a sustainable solution to disposing of waste, but it also reduces the need for traditional sources of nitrogen in fish feed, which can have significant environmental impacts. Carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS): While not technically a by-product, CCUS can be used to capture CO2 from coal-fired power plants that can then be stored underground or used in enhanced oil recovery to help to maintain energy security and support economic growth, while also addressing environmental concerns. Example: The Boundary Dam Carbon Capture Project, near Eastevan, a collaboration between SaskPower, the Government of Canada, and several technology partners, uses a variety of technologies to capture CO2 emissions from the flue gas of the coal-fired power plant, compresses it and transports it through a pipeline to nearby oil fields where it is used for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR.) The CO2 is injected into the oil reservoirs, where it helps to mobilize the remaining oil and increase production. The potential to expand the project is supported by industry, however SaskPower has resisted all attempts to expand the carbon capture project despite the admitted success of it:

Click here to read the latest Boundary Dam Unit 3 Carbon Capture Update Could one or more of these projects form the basis of a clean, efficient, reliable and affordable carbon industry in Estevan. This is an area where Estevan has a clear competitive advantage over other cities in the province. The potential is there. Will anyone take up the mantle? Saskatchewan Coal Transition Centre

13 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page