Advantages of Energy Production From Coal

Though coal may become less frequently used in the next few years, in the current day, it still provides a number of advantages to industry leaders, governments, and citizens. This is because coal energy production is able to convert coal to a number of states, is not reliant on weather, is compatible with other resources, has limited emissions, can control output, is relatively safe, is able to create employment opportunities, works as a deterrent of petroleum use, it is cost-efficient, and exceptional at-risk mitigation. While coal may not be a resource that can be used indefinitely, it is a reliable and adequate tool that can be used prior to and during the transition to cleaner energy and in locations that are isolated and require dependable energy.

Unlike a number of other energy sources, coal is one that can be converted to a number of states, including gaseous and liquid formats. The gaseous state is perhaps the most promising as an emerging technology has managed to develop methods by which goal gasification can occur below ground, within a mine. This has a number of advantages, primarily as gas is much less cost-heavy to transport than raw-form coal. Currently, the technology is available through two constructions, including drill blast activators (Saik et al.). Essentially, this process allows gasifying not only the working reserve mines but also those that have been abandoned. It also opens the doors for non-commercial and extensive mining procedures with reduced risks of sending employees into potentially dangerous locations. The ability to convert coal will become more cost-efficient and time-saving as such technology becomes more rapidly used. Additionally, the conversion may contribute to fewer harmful emissions and fewer ecological issues due to the construction of new mines. Coal is easily transportable in a number of the states it can take and, therefore, can be utilized at remote locations that may not have access to other energy sources.

Compared to energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower, coal is intermittent and non-reliant on weather patterns, changes, or daylight. Storage is significantly simpler and less cost-consuming than other forms of energy resources, which allows its later use to be reliable and less likely to suffer loss. While a steady transition to more environmentally friendly resources is inevitable and suggested, situations and locales in which reliable flows of heat and power are instrumental to survival may require the use of coal regardless of the introduction of solar, wind, and hydropower elsewhere. As an example, China is one of the largest polluters as an effect of using non-renewable energy sources (Zhou et al.). Motions have been made to turn to solar and wind power in the coming years and increase their prevalence across the country. However, until steady power flow can be achieved, it is essential for many remote populations in China to have access to some form of energy resource. In the current situation, coal is the most beneficial solution largely due to its lack of reliance on changes in the weather and the ability to be stored effectively.

One of the most important advantages of coal is that it can be totally compatible with a number of different sources of fuel. Biomass technologies can be integrated into coal facilities. The implementation of renewable energy sources is the likely future of all energy production but while it is unattainable in certain regions, the compatibility between coal and other sources is a satisfactory solution. Biomass such as residue from forest management, livestock, crops, and food waste can be used simultaneously with coal gasification to produce sustainable energy while minimizing negative impacts on the environment (Panepinto et al.). This form of compatible resource use is especially useful in the urban development of more rural and isolated locations. It results in a number of benefits including reduced emissions, reliability in the long-term production of energy, and increased long-term economic growth. Additionally, even in the case that the coal should deplete, the facilities can remain functioning by providing energy through other sources.

With the exception of smoke that comes as a byproduct of coal use, the resource does not create any other waste. In comparison with a number of other non-renewable resources, coal produces a minimal amount of waste due to the efficient and advanced technology and infrastructure that currently exists in energy production with coal. Additionally, coal byproducts are often implemented in the manufacturing of other products. The effects of coal’s minimal waste include a higher monetary value of the energy produced and less negative impact on the environment. Coal and its byproducts may also be a newly utilized and unconventional source of rare earth elements, REEs (Huang et al.). REEs are vital materials that are frequently implemented in the fields of energy production, national security, environmental protection, and economic growth. Currently, the U.S. relies on imports of REEs for all domestic production in the aforementioned fields largely due to the local gathering of REEs ceasing due to lacking competition and environmental concerns. However, as the use of coal has become much safer and cost-efficient in recent years, domestic production of REEs may also occur in the area of coal byproducts.

Coal energy production allows for the ability to easily manipulate and control the outputs of the process. This is done through alterations to the rate of heat output in order to meet the demand of a certain area. Managing the output of hydropower, solar, and wind output is significantly more challenging and frequently impossible. In fact, they often rely on the highest power output without the ability to decrease the incoming force of the resource. Coal production does provide this aspect to the production process and directly affects cost and production intensity factors. This aspect of coal production is also essential in the transition to cleaner and more renewable energy sources as producers may choose to gradually decrease output without the risk of losing all energy production by switching to renewable energy instantaneously. This can be achieved through policy changes such as permits and restrictions. A case of this can be observed in China in which capacity permit trading systems have achieved significant decreases in input and increases in income using data from 1100 coal mines (Shi et al.). Such motions create the incentive and legal guidelines to safely transition to renewable energy.

Likely as a result of its extensive history, modern and approved coal mines are relatively safe and less prone to irregular and dangerous events. While coal and the process by which it is acquired have a number of disadvantages, largely in environmental concerns and dangers of unofficial mines, modern technology has made the process much less hazardous. This is especially prevalent when compared to the risks of employment in nuclear power plants. Coal mines currently possess gear and tools that have been manufactured based on decades of experience and data. The compatibility to renewable resources and coal has proven an even further improvement in terms of safety. An example, a hybrid of solar-powered and coal-fired power plants has displayed an effective method for the reduction of consumption and discharged pollutants (Li et al.). The experimental plant manipulated the use of solar-to-electricity output in ways that would be cost-effective and the best utilization of the available solar input. This process allowed for safe energy management within the plant that also utilized the compatibility of coal.

Both the historical and modern coal industry is labor-intensive. Almost all units and processes require extensive numbers of hard-working and skilled people to operate and actualize coal energy production. It is directly opposite to operations seen in hydroelectric or nuclear power plants which are largely capital-intensive in order to provide adequate results. While a higher employment-population may result in lower profit, it also offers a number of advantages including local job opportunities and capitalization of a local jurisdiction on the unit’s energy production and ability to offer work positions. Specific individuals can benefit from this form of operations including truck drivers, miners, cleaners, power plant operators, and loaders. As power plants begin to turn to renewable energy as the primary form of energy production, jobs of non-specialized employees may become obsolete and create a large gap of unemployment within the area. However, a case in South Africa that analyzed the transition of a plant to an energy supply mix that utilizes a smaller share of coal presented that such conditions are likely to influence economic and policy factors in ways that can benefit employability (Bohlmann et al.). In the case of coal shortages, semi-skilled employees may be able to migrate from their current positions to those in which coal use is prevalent. The study noted that implementations by policymakers and urban planners can develop strategies that can re-specialize the skills of employees during shortages to address unemployment concerns.

In areas in which petroleum is utilized as a primary source of energy, the depletion of reserves is very likely in the near future. The acquisition, use, and emission of energy production by petroleum is expensive, often inaccessible, and incredibly harmful to the global and local environment and the well-being of many. During the depletion that occurs due to excess petroleum extraction, industries often turn to coal as a substitute. While coal also produces harmful emissions, it’s newer models of energy production, if implemented correctly, could elevate issues that petroleum collection has caused. An experimental study was done in Indonesian regions that experienced rapid depletion of petroleum and the use of coal energy as an immediate alternative (Zahara et al.). The process utilized bio-solubilization technology with the use of low-rank coal, a potential environmentally friendly replacement that is based on coal’s liquid state. Essentially, such research outlines ways in which coal alternatives are much more likely to reduce the harmful effects of petroleum when used as a substitute, perhaps even between transition to more renewable sources.

Processes that are able to produce energy through coal are usually less costly and more efficient. Though many countries can afford and make the transition to cleaner sources of energy, there are nations or regions that do not have this ability at the moment. This may be due to a number of factors such as a lack of specialized employees, inaccessibility to infrastructure and technology, or policies that are essential for the installation of power plants that harness renewable resources. As such, many regions continue to rely on coal due to costs, availability, and other factors. In fact, a recent study analyzed two modes of energy production including biomass to ethanol and coal to ethanol (Li and Cheng). The coal to ethanol model proved to be feasible as it allowed for energy conservation and economic competition.

While all energy production processes, including coal, are susceptible to hazards, risk mitigation is especially advanced within the sphere of coal energy. In the case of an emergency, the risks that occur within a coal mining or processing facility are much simpler to manage and stop than in a nuclear or hydropower plant. Majority of hazards within mines are controlled through prior investigation and assessment. The discovered data is implemented in the creation of safe procedures, adequate equipment, and employee needs (Can, 2020). With the introduction of more automation within dangerous areas of mines, risk factors are even more likely to decrease. The costs of these risk-mitigation tactics are also applicable in different locations and usually come at an affordable cost. While not all mine operations are able to experience this safety, the promotion of proper necessary equipment and procedure is essential for better energy production with the use of coal.

Coal offers a number of advantages when it comes to energy production. While it has drawbacks, including those that are related to environmental concerns, it proves to be better in a number of ways when compared to petroleum. As such, it can still be utilized in locations that require reliability, accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and easy storage. Coal can also pave the way for countries with developing involvement in clean energy to make a more stable transition.

Annotated Bibliography

Bohlmann, Heinrich R. et al. “Regional employment and economic growth effects of South Africa’s transition to a low-carbon energy supply mix.” Energy Policy, vol. 128, 2019, pp.830-837.

Within the following paper, the effect of work-related migration is explored in terms of coal miners in South Africa.

Can, Eray. “Assessment of Risks Relevant to Underground Measurements for Coal Mining Production and Exploration.” Natural Resources Research, vol. 29, 2020, 1773–1785.

The following article explains the role of investigation and evaluation on risk mitigation tactics and their formulation within coal mines.

Huang, Zaixing, et al. “Coal and coal byproducts: A large and developable unconventional resource for critical materials – Rare earth elements.” Journal of Rare Earths, vol.36, no.4, 2018, pp.337-338.

REEs are materials that are frequently implemented in a number of processes, and some REEs may be attained through coal byproducts.

Li, Jianlan et al. “Safety and efficiency assessment of a solar-aided coal-fired power plant.” Energy Conversion and Management, vol. 150, 2017, pp.714-724.

The following study observed a hybrid power plant that involves both solar and coal energy production and how it creates a safe work environment.

Li, Junjie, & Wanjing Cheng. “Comparison of life-cycle energy consumption, carbon emissions and economic costs of coal to ethanol and bioethanol.” Applied Energy, vol. 277, 2020.

The research within this article analyzes the more commonly used biomass to ethanol method and ways in which the coal to ethanol procedure may be more cost-effective.

Panepinto, Deborah, et al. “Energy from Biomass for Sustainable Cities.” Earth and Environmental Science, vol.72, 2021, pp.1-8.

This paper outlines the compatibility between the use of biomass and coal as energy sources and the benefits this process provides to rural areas.

Saik, Pavlo, et al. “Innovative Approach to the Integrated Use of Energy Resources of Underground Coal Gasification.” Solid State Phenomena, vol. 277, 2018, pp.221-231.

The following paper illustrates some of the processes by which coal can change states, with gasification being the primary example.

Shi, Xunpeng, et al. “A permit trading scheme for facilitating energy transition: A case study of coal capacity control in China.” Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 256, 2020.

Energy output can be controlled within coal energy production, and can be monitored through policy changes according to this study.

Zahara, Lis O. et al. “The Coal Biosolubilization Technology for Energy Security.” Indonesian Journal of Energy, vol. 4, no. 1, 2021.

The following paper outlines the ways in which a country may transition from petroleum to coal energy production with Indonesia used as an example.

Zhou, Sheng, et al. “Roles of wind and solar energy in China’s power sector: Implications of intermittency constraints.” Applied Energy, vol. 213, 2018, pp.22-30.

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