Coal essentially is ancient biomass, and the CO2 cost comes from burning plants that have absorbed CO2 millions of years ago. Now clever German scientists have found a way to make coal from contemporary biomass. They compress leaves or grass in a matter of hours to a fuel equivalent to lignite, except that it is CO2 neutral.
Thanks to this tweet by Energiewende Germany for the link.
That of course will come in handy when using existing fossil fuel plants as backup power sources in the rare time slots where not enough renewable energy is available. If one must burn coal at all, it should be this kind.
The website of the developer of this technology, a company called “Suncoal”, is here.
I have read a couple of pages of that website. They claim that their technology only uses about 7% of the energy contained in the final biocoal. They also explain that the basic technology was already known at the beginning of the 20th Century and they have only improved it with modern methods.
Their page on environmental advantages of their patented technology lists these points:
For one, much of existing biomass waste is not used, but could be with their technology. They cite a 2010 study that gives a potential of 22,840 TWh by 2020, which is in the general ballpark range of the World’s electricity consumption.
Using this kind of biomass is also a good idea since it does not compete with food production.
And they point out that their product fits in with existing fossil fuel power plants, so it can help with the transition to a 100 percent renewable electricity sector.