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Greenhouse Gases, Abatement and Control: The Role of Coal

AUTHOR: Irene M. Smith and Kelly V. Thamibimuthu
DATE: June 1991


  • Is it best to avoid emissions by choosing energy sources with lower or no greenhouse gas emissions or by improving energy use efficiency and conservation?
  • Can these emissions be controlled by recovery from flue gases, disposal or re-use?
  • How effective would these measures be in reducing the enhanced greenhouse effect due to human activities?

This report examines the basis of quantitative evaluations being commissioned by policy makers in attempting to answer these questions and assesses the state-of-the-art of abatement and control technologies for carbon dioxide emissions.

Carbon dioxide is the most important greenhouse gas overall and the most important from coal utilisation. The increased concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere resulting from coal use accounts for 16-21% of that part of the greenhouse effect due to human activities. Allowing for the longer term effects of emissions over a hundred years increases the relative contribution of coal to 17-23%. A small contribution from other gases emitted by coal use cannot be quantified at present.

The report concludes that there is no firm basis for evaluating the effect of reducing emissions on their global warming potential. However, abatement technologies aimed at improving conversion efficiency or reducing energy consumption will reduce emissions whilst having their own commercial justification in a "no regrets" policy. By contrast, control technologies usually add to costs and to energy consumption. Control measures such as reafforestation, storage and recycling may also be included in a "no regrets" policy.