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Greenhouse Gas Emission Factors for Coal -- The Complete Fuel Cycle

AUTHORS: Irene M. Smith
DATE: November 1997

Guidelines for compiling national emissions inventories are outlined to show how greenhouse gas emission factors for coal are used to estimate detailed emissions data for specific technologies and fuels. CO2, CH4 and N2O emission factors are reviewed throughout the coal chain, including:

  • coal mining,
  • coal handling,
  • coal use for electricity and heat production,
  • coal products and industrial use of coal (metallurgical and cement industries, manufacture of glass, bricks and tiles, and paper).

There is a lack of data on CH4 and N2O emission factors for new coal fired plant and for coke use in iron and steel production. Some studies on reduced load conditions and intermittent operation of coal-fired plant suggest that more work is required on the effect of operating conditions on emission factors.

Finally, examples of the applications of greenhouse gas emission factors are examined for regional emissions inventories and to compare various fuel and technology options for energy production. These give a broad ranking of greenhouse gas emissions from different energy sources in which coal > orimulsion > oil > diesel > gas which are all much greater than photovoltaic > nuclear > hydro. Expressing emissions factors in terms of CO2 equivalents is uncertain and comparisons with full fuel studies would be more meaningful if tested using ranges of emission factors rather than single values.