Thursday, February 23, 2006

Klein Koal

Calgary Sun: Clean Coal New Goal, Feb 22, 2006

Ralph Klein in a move that would make a medieval alchemist proud, pulled out his philosopher's stone, uttered an incantation and in the blink of an eye, transformed Alberta's energy sector into a David Suzuki dreamland. In his 25 minute broadcast to Albertan's on Tuesday night, the Premier claimed:

"We already use clean coal to meet more than half of our electricity needs,"
Skeptics, non-believers and infidels such as Mary Griffiths of the Pembina Institute immediately scoffed at Ralph's enlightenment, claiming that while Alberta may produce 70% of its electrical energy from coal, none of it could be even remotely described as clean. In fact, most of Alberta's coal fired generators would not even pass current standards for new generation plants in the United States.

Even erstwhile desciples of Klein cast doubts on his tremendous accomplishment. David Lewin, chairman of the Canadian Clean Power Coalition, asserted that "We're a fair ways away from having zero emission coal-fired plants. That technology doesn't exist."

Alberta's newest coal fired thermal generator, the 450 MW Genessee 3 (G3) plant that began operations on March 1, 2005 is one of the most advanced coal plants ever constructed in Canada, but even this plant is not "clean", barely approaching the pollution and CO2 emissions levels of a modern Combined Cycle Natural Gas generator.

Clean coal is just a concept right now that involves gassification of the coal, burning it in an oxygen rich environment to elliminate NOx and SOx emissions and concentrate the CO2 levels in the flue gas so the CO2 can be scrubed and sequestered in depleted oil fields and underground aquifers. A scale project in Weyburn Saskatchewan, operated by EnCana is being used to store 5000 tonnes per day of CO2 generated from a North Dakota industrial plant. It is the first of its kind in the world and is little more than a pilot project at this point.

But if Ralph said it, I believe it. And hey, for a modern day alchemist, if you have Fire, Water, Earth and Oil Coal, who needs air?

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