Coal is responsible for covering more than half of India’s energy needs. But like all fossil fuels, it is non-renewable and very polluting. India needs sustainable and cleaner sources of energy if it is to grow and achieve economic milestones.
Coal gasification is an alternative and a better way to exploit coal reserves to produce energy. It is also more environmentally friendly and can reduce carbon emissions if used correctly.
What is coal gasification?
Coal releases a lot of energy when burned and is used in thermal power stations to generate electricity. Another major use of coal is to produce coal gas or town gas, but this is not very common these days.
Coal is considered the dirtiest fossil fuel. Its by-products include several greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2). During gasification, the coal is partially oxidized at extremely high temperatures, instead of being directly burned, resulting in the emission of syngas.
Syngas is a mixture of CO2, carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2), methane (CH4) and water vapour. Syngas has a wide range of uses in the agriculture, energy and chemical industries.
Benefits of Coal Gasification
As the Ukraine crisis shows, fuel sources have the power to undermine the functioning of a country. India, being a diplomatically neutral country, has managed to make the best of the situation, but it still needs more autonomy to meet energy demand. Coal gasification is an indispensable step in this direction.
Also, the fight against climate change and global warming is the need of the hour. Coal gasification is a cleaner, less polluting coal processing method. It emits less carbon when burned, and other polluting gases like CO2 can be easily separated, captured and used for other purposes.
Syngas derived from coal gasification can also be further processed to create fuels like gasoline and diesel. Other coal gasification by-products, such as hydrogen, can be used to make ammonia, explore alternative fuel sources, or in the petrochemical industry.
Disadvantages of coal gasification
Coal gasification actually emits far more carbon dioxide than other processes. Coal gasification reduces overall waste, but it still releases a substantial amount of CO2.
Coal gasification is also a more energy and water intensive process than traditional methods. But it is a relatively new method and it continues to evolve. However, the potential advantages of coal gasification far outweigh its disadvantages.
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