Efficiency Of Coal
The use of coal dates back to before the first automotive engine was ever made. It was realized back then, that combustion of coal produced a lot of energy, which could be used for beneficial purposes. While the use of coal in automotive engines has now abated, the use of coal to yield energy has not. In industries where power is needed to run machines, coal is the first resource that comes to mind. Perhaps this is facilitated by the abundance of the material beneath the earth’s surface. To put the importance of coal into perspective, 40% of the electricity generated in the world today comes from coal. That is a significant percentage, considering there are other alternatives used in the generation of power today. But how efficient is coal?
Automotive engines that were powered by combustion of coal were not the most effective. Besides the burden of burning coal in mid-journey, the speeds achieved were less than admirable. That is when the realization came that coal is more suited to an industrial process where it can be combusted in a bigger furnace. Of course burning does not achieve much, if it is not accompanied by a boiler. The heat achieved from burning coal converts water to steam, which is then used to spin turbines, which are used to turn generators and ultimately yield electricity. If the question of coal efficiency is to be asked, this is where it would be directed to.
When this process first started, a lot of heat went to waste, which in other words is to say that the thermodynamic efficiency of the process was below par. But developments have been geared to putting more of the heat to use, and thus increasing the efficiency of the whole procedure. Increasing heat has been shown to yield better results. The better turbine designs conceptualized have helped up the efficiency percentage, with higher temperatures and pressures being employed.
Coal efficiency is not limited to the electricity generated from the process per se- there are also the carbon emissions to think about. Removal of SOx and NOx, as well as sequestration of carbon dioxide and gasification has helped the process reach higher levels of effectiveness. It’s still an ongoing experiment, to try to raise the percentage even higher, amidst the technical difficulties that are in the way. In any case, the efficiency right now seems to suffice, since the electricity generated is satisfactory.
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