The Ultimate List 19 Advantages and Disadvantages of Coal
Check Out Every Pro & Con From Our Use of Coal
Coal is currently used in a wide variety of different applications. From generating electricity (steam and thermal coal) to many of the daily items we use require coal for their production.
There are two primary types of coal.
- 1) Steam Coal (thermal)mainly used for power generation
- 2) Coking Coal(metallurgical) used mainly for production.
Unfortunately, all of this use from us over may have helped contribute to the changes we are experiencing in our environment and climate today.
I have looked everywhere I could to find every different pro, and con that coal has to offer.
So keep reading and decide for your self if coal is a product you are comfortable spending your money on.
List of Coal Energy Advantages and Disadvantages
Pros of Coal Energy
1. Affordable(Low Cost):
Coal is the cheapest of all the fossil fuels we use. The extraction of coal is significantly easier than collecting oil or natural gas.
Many coal sites only require traditional heavy equipment and explosives to perform the mining. Oil and natural gas, on the other hand, require specialized equipment and techniques that are significantly more expensive.
It makes no difference if opencast mining (surface) or deep mining (underground) the same general equipment will get used. Not having specialized equipment helps to keep the company's overhead lower.
Many places now use explosives to expose coal seams preventing the workers having to go underground to mine it. Well, this method is safer for the miners. It causes more visual damage to our environment.
Since transportation gets done by trucks and trains costs are cheaper than fossil fuels that require pipelines.
India is said to have coal as cheap as $20/ton
2. Large Amount Available
Coal can get found in every continent with over 70 counties that contain deposits of it.
America currently has a reserve of mined coal that could fuel our current resources for close to 150 years.
Other countries with the largest reserves are China, India, and Russia.
It is essential to not rely on other countries to meet our energy requirements.
It would be only a matter of time until they would use this for their advantage.
Being able to collect and use our resources for power generation ensures our energy security.
3. Storage Safe
For people using coal at home since it does not contain any holes on its surface, oil and gas cannot pass through it. The Fireplace Supplier Register states that you can store it in damp places or even outside with no protection from rain or snow.
Once you are ready to use it, bring it inside, give it a quick wipe, and use it right away.
Many people still use coal to heat their cottages, and others have their homes heated by it. An added advantage of using coal over wood is that it burns both hotter and longer.
Issues from transportation like crashes do not contaminate the area the way gas and oil will. We also do not have to fear explosions happening either.
It also does not use any expensive high-pressure pipelines that require continual upkeep.
Chances of properly kept coal storage piles combusting(see disadvantages) are infrequent compared to any other fossil fuel.
4. Low Capital Investment
The price of coal per watt of thermal capacity is still lower than than the cost of wind and solar both which have a higher cost per watt of electricity.
Another low cost is the price for the creation of the coal mines. Open Cast mining can provide us with coal at an extremely reduced price when compared to underground mining practices.
The fact that many of our power generation technologies were initially designed with coal in mind helps to keep capital investment in it low.
The EIA states that there are 52 coal mines in the U.S.A. alone with 600 coal generating facilities, 110 manufacturing sites employing an estimated 140, 000 people.
Since coal use continues to rise around the world, more jobs will be created to help fill the demand. It is also estimated that over the next 10 to 15 years, around 50,000 retiring workers will need to be replaced.
On average most mines pay their employees between 30 and 35 dollars significantly higher than many other industries.
6. Large Production of Electricity
Because coal plants are not reliant on the weather like many renewable energy sources, power plants can run almost continuously 24/7.
It gets estimated that coal fulled power plants still generate around 38 percent of the world's electricity.
Being an older technology has allowed the industry to keep maximizing its efficiency.
We are continually able to produce the same amount of energy while we burn smaller and smaller amounts of coal.
7. Independent of Weather Conditions:
One of the major problems with many implementations of renewable energy like solar panels, hydro-energy, and wind turbines is that the available power generated is directly tied to the current climate conditions.
On cloudy days solar is less efficient, no wind and our turbines stop producing electricity.
Coal mining, on the other hand, is not dependent on the weather. The only time mining companies will need to halt their activity is when there is a declared danger making the mine inoperable. Beyond this, rain, snow, or sun, these sites will stay in constant operation.
8. Big Industrial Base
Since it is an older and well-established energy source, there are many companies invested in its.
Having a significant industrial base helps to ensure the stability and longevity of its production.
9. Coal Can Get Converted to Liquids and Gases
While production has lowered since we started collecting natural gas, many fuel sources were created by processing coal into a liquid and gas.
By heating the coal in the absence of air, we can extract the different gases contained in it. The mix of gases commonly collected were hydrogen, methane, ethylene, and carbon.
The defense department has been looking into using these methods to help further reduce the dependence we have on Middle Eastern Crude Oil.
10. Versatile (Many Application Uses)
Coal gets used in a large number of different items we rely on daily.
- Activated carbon(water and air purification)
- Carbon fiber
- Generating Electricity
- Steel Production, Silicon metal
- Paper manufacturers, and the chemical and pharmaceutical industries
- Gasification and Liquefaction
- Aspirin, Soap, and Dyes
11. Oil Dependency Reduced
Reducing our dependence on foreign oil helps ensure our energy security.
Many of the countries that we purchase oil from are a national security risk, and our reliance on their oil must get minimized.
Coal reduces our dependency on foreign oil. And with the increasing popularity of electric cars coal power plants can provide the electricity to charge them further reducing our need for foreign oil.
Cons of Coal Energy
When a Fossil Fuel mine is getting created, Deforestation is one of the first steps.
The process must also get used in multiple locations. The first is the most prominent spot, the place for the mine.
Not only will we need to clear the area of the mine from all forest cover. But we will also cut down extensive paths for transportation of all the required equipment.
Deforestation is shown to cause issues for many species. Many plants also suffer since removing portions of a forests canopy results in more significant temperature swings between day and night.
Deforestation may also affect regional and possibly global water cycles"national geographic."
Another problem from removing so many trees is that we add carbon into the air with the equipment we use to cut them down.
And now that there are fewer trees, we also reduced the environments ability to remove carbon from the air naturally.
2. Gas Emissions
Were not just talking about when we burn coal but all of the heavy equipment and trucks used in its excavation and transportation.
Lots of different chemicals and fumes are getting released into our environment around mining sites.
Since coal gets made from organic plant matter, the carbon that was contained in it will now be getting released into our air.
The more carbon dioxide that is getting released into our atmosphere continues to be a significant cause of global warming.
Many countries are currently trying to attribute a cost to this through the use of carbon taxes.
Open Cast mining is showing to be particularly problematic for causing harmful chemicals to get released in our waters. Specifically, Heavy metal contamination, increased sediment levels, and acidic mine drainage.
3. Displacement of People From Mining Destruction
In India, they are ramping up coal production to meet their growing energy needs. This is causing members of the Adivasi Tribe getting displaced from their ancestral land and waiting years to get resettled from the state-owned coal company.
It is common for these tribes not getting included in decisions about the acquisition of their lands. After the decision gets made, they then get forcefully evicted and poorly compensated.
4. Employee Deaths
Every year many workers in the coal trade lose their lives. While countries like the US and Canada have relatively low death rates thanks to our tight inspection regulations.
In other countries like China, India, and Russia, where inspection regulations are much looser and sometimes entirely missing the employee death toll is significantly higher.
From fume inhalation to explosions and the possibility of being buried deep underground, there are lots of ways for mining to take someone's life.
5. Not as Low Cost as Believed:
When we take into account all of the environmental problems caused by coal mining and use and the resources we will need to fix them, using this fossil fuel is ending up costing us more than we first thought.
Also, with all the advances in solar and wind technology over the last decade, we are starting to produce electricity at an equivalent and sometimes a lower cost than coal.
While currently, it is only a few regions in the U.S. where solar and wind are starting to become cheaper(still issue of battery life needs to get addressed until it is genuinely cost-competitive).
Fortunately, as the technology of these renewable energy sources keeps improving. Their price should eventually reach lower levels than the cost of coal.
6. Possible Storage Problems
Keeping large piles of stacked coal like the U.S. does in case of supply issues costs money for the storage.
According to experts, when the coal is just sitting there, if there is air around, it causes a process known as oxidation. (chemical breakdown), so the quality of the coal will slowly decrease.
The chemical breakdown requires us to use a higher ignition temperature when we do finally use it.
When we store coal with high amounts of methane in closed silos to help preserve it, we need to be very careful.
If the silo does not get vented often enough, there is a risk of high levels of explosive gases building up.
7. Low-Temperature Oxidation of Coal and Spontaneous Combustion
When coal is stored at low temperatures and in large stockpiles, the small amount of heat that gets naturally created are typically carried away by normal airflow.
So with proper stacking and airflow, the coal should stay around the temperature of its environment.
But in lower temperatures, the formation of coal-oxygen complexes causing heat generation is at its highest levels. -80 to -5 Celcius maximizes the amount of oxygen the coal absorbed. If this heat generation continues without getting removed the coal will eventually spontaneously combust.
While people who store small quantities of coal at home are unlikely to meet the conditions for spontaneous ignition. With the more massive industrial pile's companies need to make sure that this risk gets mitigated.
8. Why is Coal a Nonrenewable Resource?
Nonrenewable resources are any resource that can run out and not get replenished within our lifetime.
Coal is considered as non-renewable because it takes organic matter millions of years under high pressure for it to develop.
Because of this, we have a finite(limited) amount of coal that we can collect from the earth and use for generating our electricity and industrial product production.
The coal we are using today started to get formed between 360 and 290 million years ago.
Different factors determine the quality of the coal that is getting extracted. Its age and the depths(pressure) it gets made at generally determine the quality of the obtained organic rock.
While I don't think we are in a spot to eliminate coal yet. I do believe that we should be focusing on replacing steam coal with renewable energy sources as soon as it is possible.
Another problem outside our control is the countries that continue to rely on coal as their primary energy source.
In China and Indonesia, coal dominates as the primary energy source. Around 70% of these countries total electrical power still comes from thermal coal.
Hopefully, as we continue to improve the efficiency of renewable energy, more countries will adopt them as well.
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