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CARBON

CARBON

Carbon is one of the most common elements in the Universe. It is the chemical building block of life on Earth and carbon products are an inextricable part of our everyday lives. As the basis of several chemical compounds, carbon is found in food, fuels, fertilisers, cleaning products, drinks and medicines – in other words, almost everything man encounters each and every day. As an element, carbon plays an increasingly greater role in our civilisation. It is the basis of the over 10 million organic compounds known to man. Therefore, it plays a crucial role in nearly all fields of life. Without it, we would not have advanced in medicine, pharmacy, biology, chemistry, physics, materials, metallurgy, textiles, gastronomy, automotive, aeronautics, cosmonautics, cosmetics, energy, electronics or arts.

COAL FUEL

COAL AS A FUEL

Bituminous coal is a solid mineral fuel. It is a sedimentary rock formed from dead plants, mainly during the Carboniferous period, around 360-300 million years ago – in the Palaeozoic era. Over time, with heat and pressure, the dead plant material was subjected to coalification, a process which increases the percentage content of carbon (C), and decreases the amount of oxygen, hydrogen and other substances. In a nutshell, bituminous coal is solar energy converted by the process of photosynthesis – a biological process – in to biomass and then stored through the slow geological processes occurring on Earth.

ENERGY

DATA HARD AS COAL

The European Union is the world's largest producer of lignite

383 million tonnes in 2017

Significant quantities of bituminous coal are extracted in the EU

81 million tonnes in 2017, including 65.5 million tonnes in Poland

The European Union is the fourth largest importer of coal
after China,India and Japan million tonnes in 2017

Conventional energy reserves in the EU lie mainly in coal deposits
– coal and lignite reserves in the EU account 89% of the total.

A CHEAP AND STABLE
SOURCE OF ENERGY

In Poland, the heat generated from coal in boilers is two times cheaper than heat from gas, and four times cheaper than heat from electricity or LPG.

In Poland, the cost of producing one gigajoule (1 GJ) of heat from coal is, on average, €5.70 – enough to heat a home for a week.

For comparison, the cost of producing:

  • 1 GJ of heat from gas is c. €11,
  • 1 GJ of heat from oil amounts to c. €18,
  • 1 GJ of heat from electricity is c. €22.

JOBS FOR TECHNICIANS
AND SPECIALIST ENGINEERS

The coal and lignite industry provides well-paid jobs in an industry worth €22 billion annually. Simultaneously, it contributes to the development of the economy and drives prosperity – it is estimated that one job in the coal mining sector contributes to three jobs in related sectors.
Qualified engineers and technicians work in this area of the economy. Coal mining and coal use create a demand for the advice of specialists from academic centres, whose research may benefit the needs of the entire economy.

HOW MUCH CARBON IS IN COAL?

future

CLEAN TECHNOLOGIES

Advanced research is currently ongoing on the gasification of coal and lignite. The process has several significant and ecological advantages. Gasification decreases the emissions of harmful oxides of sulphur and nitrogen.

Simultaneously, it makes it possible to supply more useful energy than from traditional combustion processes. Such a solution creates the possibility of producing fuels for cars, aeroplanes and other equipment powered by combustion engines.

NO SMOKE – JUST FIRE

Polish scientists have developed a variety of so-called smoke-free coal (blue coal). It is a degassed, low-emission fuel that easily ignites and does not cause harm to the natural environment. This technology is continuously being improved.

AND WHAT ABOUT CARBON DIOXIDE?

One of the products of coal combustion is carbon dioxide. Its increased presence in the atmosphere is considered to be the reason for global warming. Academic circles are looking for ways to utilise CO2 to finally solve the problem related to the presence of this gas in the atmosphere. Experts recommend producing fuel for cars and aeroplanes from carbon dioxide using an artificial photosynthesis process. The method still requires further development of the technology, not least to ensure its profitability.

economy

COAL – THE START
OF AN ECONOMIC VALUE CHAIN

As history shows, coal is the driving force for technological advancement. Coal initiated the industrial revolution. Thanks to coal the steel and machinery industries continue to develop, and so its extraction supports the entire European economy. Coal sits at the start of a long value chain.

The modern coal and lignite industry helps in the creation of new materials, facilitating the processes of energy production and processing, while continuously improving the quality and safety of our lives.

Coal is one of the most important sources of heat and electricity, as well as the basis for various branches of modern industry, e.g. steel and cement. In propelling the development of new technologies, it contributes to the emergence and broad application of new clean coal technologies.

The coal industry offers, therefore:

  • well-paid jobs,
  • knowledge and technological advancement,
  • technical skills and competences.

beco@l

IF NOT COAL,
THEN WHAT?

Coal is one of the most important sources of energy. In the opinion of many specialists, it is impossible to completely replace coal and lignite with alternatives within the time horizon of current climate and energy policies.

The International Energy Agency predicts that, in the coming decades, the world will not be able to meet the demand for energy without coal. It is envisaged that, with new technologies, coal will become an eco-friendly energy material – almost as emission-free as renewable sources of energy.