Coal, which is primarily used as a liquid fuel, in cement manufacturing, steel production and electricity generation, accounts for an estimated six per cent (6%) of total methane emissions worldwide. (Global Methane Initiative 2010; World Coal Association 2017). The top 10 coal producers worldwide account for 90% of emissions: China, India, USA, Australia, Indonesia, Russia, South Africa, Germany, Poland, and Kazakhstan. (IEA. 2017). According to the International Energy Agency, total coal production declined more than ever since the IEA began its recordings in 1971, with a drop of 458 Mt down to 7.268.6 Mt in comparison to 2015, despite of the fact that India, Russia, and Indonesia increased production in 2016.
The World Coal Association states that around 15 per cent of all hard coal production is destined for the international coal market, with the largest exporters being Australia, Indonesia, Russia, Colombia, South Africa, USA, Netherlands, Canada, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. China is the leading importer of coal, followed by India, Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, Malaysia and the Russian Federation. (IEA 2017).
Furthermore, the World Coal Association which states that coal is a fossil fuel, i.e. the transformed residues of prehistoric vegetation, developed and formed throughout millions of years into energy containing coal. Greenpeace lists strip mines as the most harmful since it leaves permanent scars on the environment, including soil erosion and ruination of agricultural land, leading to the pollution of waterways when topsoil is being washed by rain, mixing up natural landscapes. Another environmental problem caused by coal, estimated by Greenpeace, are coal fires that can burn for decades, or even centuries, polluting our environment with chemicals and toxins that are invisible to the human eye. Greenpeace, which is campaigning to stop investments to any fossil fuel projects, has witnessed and published a case study/full report about Coal Mines Polluting South Kalimantan´s Water. (Greenpeace, December 2014). The report summarizes and reveals that intensive coal mining activities in this Indonesian region has led to the release of toxic pollution from coal mining into rivers while violating national standards for wastewater releases from coal mines.
While the damaging nature and risks of coal mining for the overall environment is well-known, the World Coal Association aims to develop and lead the global coal mining industry into a “pathway of zero emissions from coal” with advanced clean technologies allowing for the coal mining industry to minimize its impacts on the environment. The World Coal Association suggests that HELE power generation could reduce CO2 emissions from coal mining by more than a third. How about methane emissions from coal mining? The United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA estimates that methane emissions from coal mining will continue to increase and be responsible for nine per cent (9%) of total global methane emissions by 2020, whereby methane is many times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Are zero methane emissions from coal mining a possibility? Learn more by watching ICE-CMM Poland´s video “Clark Talkington – Achieving nea zero methane emissions from coal mine mining”:
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