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Climate updates: controlling soot and peak coal

GCBL staff  |  08/05/10 @ 10:00am

Two new studies suggest altered approaches on how to best consider climate solutions.

Controlling soot A new study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research by Mark Z. Jacobson at Stanford University, suggests that soot is the second leading contributor to climate change but that it has largely been ignored as a cause because current climate models mischaracterize its effects. Jacobson concludes that "[c]ontrolling soot may be the only method of significantly slowing Arctic warming within the next two decades." Because soot stays in the atmosphere for only a few weeks, eliminating soot would have significant near term impacts. Immediate solutions to limiting soot are also widely available and cost effective, including particle traps on vehicles.

Peak coal Another new study released by Tadeusz Patzek at The University of Texas at Austin and Gregory Croft at the University of California, Berkeley and published in the August issue of Energy, The International Journal, concludes that:

  • global peak coal production from existing coal fields will occur near 2011, and
  • current climate models are not considering a decline in coal production, possibly leading to unnecessary technological investments in carbon capture and storage.

The authors conclude that coal production from existing fields will fall by 50% by 2050, equating to at least 50% reduction in CO2 emissions from coal.

Open questions include how much new coal might be found and what role carbon capture and storage should take. The authors suggest that best approach to coal might be to:

gradually replace the existing electrical power generation blocks with the new ultra supercritical steam blocks (steam temperatures of 620-700 °C, and pressures of 220-250 bars), whose electrical efficiency is close to 50%, compared with the ~35% efficiency currently realized. This replacement might ultimately lower current CO2 emissions from coal-fired power stations by 15/35-40% for the same amount of electricity.

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