In today’s developed industry, coal has always held an important position. Coal and fossil energy sources play a very important role in the development of mankind. Coal advantage and disadvantage are still under debate but it’s still one of the most important energy sources of mankind. And in this article, Wapolabs will share with you the top 10 advantages of coal as well as the disadvantages of this fuel.
What is coal?
Coal is a sedimentary rock with a black or brown-black color that can burn. Coal frequently appears in rock strata with many layers or layers of minerals.
Coal is a form of fossil fuel, formed from buried plants that go through stages from peat and gradually convert into brown coal (also known as lignite). Next, lignite will become semi-bituminous coal, which will then become complete bituminous coal. Finally, it was transformed into coal.
Coal provides fuel for burning for heat. Currently, coal provides about a quarter of the world’s basic energy. And this is also the largest source of energy to produce electricity.
In fossil energy sources, coal has many advantages such as easy to exploit, easy to process, easier to trade, easier to transport than oil and natural gas. Moreover, coal-fired technology is relatively simple, which can be developed on a large industrial scale. Therefore, coal has been used in many countries. It can be said that the world is heavily dependent on coal and fossil energy sources.
After understanding what coal is, now it’s time to learn about what coal is for. In addition, let’s learn about the advantages and disadvantages of coal.
Advantages of coal
Coal has so many advantages, it has become an essential part of our lives. And here are the top 10 advantages of coal:
It’s a reliable fuel
Number one on the advantages of coal list is the reliability of it. Coal supply is gradually returning in many parts of the world, so it can be considered a reliable source of fuel.
Coal plays an important role in the global electricity supply as it will still contribute up to 22% of total electricity generation by 2040. The figure is even higher in emerging markets in Southeast Asia, where coal will provide 39% of electricity by 2040. Coal has an important role to play in improving access to electricity for people around the globe.
Coal has provided energy and built infrastructure in modern society and strengthened the economy for centuries.
The cheapest fossil fuel
Coal is cheaper, more accessible than other fossil fuels, and reserves are more evenly distributed around the world.
Coal has a more reasonable cost of extraction and use when compared to other combustion materials. When other materials need to be reprocessed through complex physico-chemical processes, coal only needs to be dug up to be able to be used immediately. The transportation and storage of coal does not require strict storage measures as with other energy sources.
All these characteristics of coal have made coal one of the cheapest sources of raw materials.
It is clear that coal plays an important role in the economy as an indispensable source of raw materials for so many byproducts.
Coal is used a lot in production and life. Previously, coal was used as fuel for steam engines and locomotives. After that, coal served as fuel for thermal power plants, the metallurgical industry.
Recently, coal is also used for chemistry to create products such as pharmaceuticals, plastics, and artificial fibers. Graphite is used as an electrode.In addition, coal has been used a lot in heating since ancient times
Low initial cost
Another advantages of coal energy are that it has a low initial cost. Compared to many other fuel sources, coal is easy to process, not through complex physical-chemical processes, so mining coal is cheap initially.
Safer in comparison with other fossil fuel
In fossil energy sources, coal has a huge advantage that is safer than other energy sources. The reason coal is safe is because compared to natural gas or gasoline, coal is more difficult to ignite.
And in the mining process, coal will not require too many complex physical-chemical processes, so it will be safer to exploit. Moreover, coal burning technology is relatively simple and safe, which can be developed on a large industrial scale. Therefore, coal has been used in many countries. It can be said that the world is heavily dependent on coal and fossil energy sources.
Easy to storage
Compared to other fossil fuel sources that require very high storage, coal has less storage requirements. That’s why coal is considered so easy to store. The transportation and storage of coal do not require strict storage measures as with other energy sources.
Less dangerous factors
For some fossil materials, the biggest risk in transportation and storage is the possibility of fire and explosion when temperatures rise. And this seems to be a big challenge for vehicles. But coal compared to other materials is potentially less risky because it will be careful to react to very high heat to be able to ignite coal. Therefore, coal is considered a source of fossil raw materials with less potential fire and explosion risks.
Easy to use
While other materials need to be reprocessed through complex physico-chemical processes, coal only needs to be dug up to be able to be used immediately.
Coal mining is not affected by weather
It seems that compared to renewable energy sources, coal will not be affected by the weather. The minus point of renewable energy is that the initial investment cost is often high, the operating efficiency can be affected by weather and natural factors. Renewable energy is difficult to produce large amounts of electricity. Meanwhile, the initial cost of coal is lower, producing large energy sources without depending on weather factors such as solar or wind power.
Create jobs around the world
The last on the list of advantages of coal is that coal creates jobs around the world. Coal contributes significantly to the development of society and the economy, especially at the local level. Coal mining remains a contributing sector to many economies, especially in developing countries.
- 6,500,000 people working in coal mining, processing and delivery
- 2,500,000 people working in coal power generation and associated networks
Currently, there are many millions of people working in related industries, such as steel, cement and aluminum, while more indirect jobs are created in industries and businesses that support coal.
Much of the coal industry in developing countries is export-oriented and a major source of foreign currency. Emerging economies continue to see coal as a good choice for future development, but coal’s contribution is not limited to developing countries, as advanced economies benefit significantly from the workings of the coal industry, both directly and indirectly.
In Queensland, Australia, 20,000 people already employed in the coal industry generate A$20 billion in income (2018 figures). Coal exports have raked in A$1 billion in royalties, providing a significant source of much-needed funding for public services.
While in Europe, despite a significant drop in coal production in recent years, coal markets in Germany and Poland still support more than 160,000 jobs in direct and indirect form.
Disadvantages of coal
Beside the advantages listed above,
It’s about to run out soon
The Earth takes millions of years to create fossil fuels, while the speed of human consumption is so fast that this fuel source is becoming increasingly depleted. In the world, if the current rate of exploitation and consumption is maintained, oil reserves are estimated to be enough for 53 years, natural gas for about 55 years and coal for 113 years.
Most of the important industries use the main source of raw materials is coal energy, so they are increasingly depleted because this is a non-renewable energy source, the rate of formation takes millions of years.
Therefore, people need to find alternative energy sources to reduce the demand for coal fuel, which is gradually depleted.
Negative impact on the environment
The development of fossil energy sources has many consequences for the environment. The burning of fossil fuels produces about 21.3 billion tons of CO2 per year and increases the 10.65 billion tons of CO2 in the atmosphere. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that increases the radioactive force and contributes to global warming.
In addition to CO2, burning fossil fuels also produces other air pollutants such as NO2, SO2, volatile organic compounds, and heavy metals. According to a scientific assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the use of fossil energy contributed 56.6% of all greenhouse gases due to human activity in 2004.
Among fossil fuels, coal is considered the most polluting fuel, emitting twice as much CO2 as natural gas and 30% more than gasoline.
The combustion of coal for production produces greenhouse gases and other toxic pollutants, including carbon dioxide, mercury compounds, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides .On the raw materials that produce electricity, the coal produced is more polluting than any other fuel source.In addition, all steps of coal – mineral energy production, transportation produce greenhouse gas emissions. Coal contains methane, the gas that causes the greenhouse effect, and is flammable.
Impact on Coal Miner’s Health
Not only does it impact ecosystems, but the use of fossil energy sources also affects human health. Air pollution caused by coal causes many cardiovascular diseases and respiratory pathologies. Long-term exposure to coal dust can cause black lung disease with inflammation, pulmonary fibrosis, sometimes lung necrosis.
It is estimated that every billion kWh of electricity produced from coal causes 24.5 deaths, 225 serious cases and more than 13,000 other health problems.
In particular, coal mining is considered one of the dangerous occupations but because of the great impact on health.
Adverse effects on the natural habitats
The extraction, processing and distribution of fossil fuels also pose many threats to the environment. Open-pit coal mining methods disappear vegetation and topsoil, increasing soil erosion, causing many organisms to lose their habitat. Underground coal mining methods cause land subsidence, water pollution, and the risk of underground accidents.
Coal mining changes local ecosystems and wildlife habitats. Pollutants created by coal mining also contribute to acid rain. In addition, burning coal produces ash, a solid waste containing potassium and metal oxides. Furthermore, many abandoned mines still contain harmful pollutants.
When coal burns, the chemical bonds holding its carbon atom are broken, releasing energy. However, other chemical reactions also occur, many of which carry toxic pollutants in the air and heavy metals into the environment.
This air pollution includes:
- Mercury: Coal plants are responsible for 42% of U.S. emissions of mercury, a toxic heavy metal that can harm the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and is a serious threat to children’s development.
Just 1/70th of a teaspoon of mercury deposited on a 25-acre lake can make fish unsafe to eat. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Emissions Inventory, U.S. coal power plants emitted 45,676 pounds of mercury in 2014 (the latest year figures available).
- Sulfur dioxide (SO2): Produced when sulfur in coal reacts with oxygen, SO2 combines with other molecules in the atmosphere to form small, acidic particles that can enter the human lungs. It is associated with asthma, bronchitis, fog and acid rain, harms crops and other ecosystems, and acidified lakes and streams.U.S. coal power plants emitted more than 3.1 million tons of SO2 in 2014.
- Nitrous oxide (NOx): Nitrogen oxides are visible as smog and irritate lung tissue, worsening asthma and making people more susceptible to chronic respiratory diseases such as pneumonia and influenza.In 2014, U.S. coal power plants emitted more than 1.5 million tons.
When evaluating the advantages of coal and it disadvantages, the problem is the advantages of coal are tremendous and difficult to replace with alternative energy sources to ensure sustainable development, limit the use of fossil fuels and reduce their harmful effects on the environment, in order to combat the ongoing global climate change.