If you've no account register here first time
User Name :
User Email :
Password :

Login Now

Exporting US Coal to Asia Could Cut Emissions

South KoreaExporting US coal to power plants in South Korea could lead to a 21 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions compared to burning it domestically, according to a Duke University-led study.

The superior energy efficiency of South Korea’s newer coal-fired power plants would offset the large amount of emissions produced by shipping the coal such a distance.

For the reduction to occur, US plants would need to replace the exported coal with natural gas, and in South Korea the imported coal would need to replace other coal as the power source.

To conduct the analysis, researchers performed lifecycle air-emissions and economic assessments of two scenarios. In one, coal continued to be burned domestically in the US Northwest for power generation at power plants retrofitted to meet EPA emissions standards. In the other, coal was shipped to South Korea.

For the export scenario, they focused on the Morrow Pacific Project in Oregon planned by Ambre Energy. Under the project, Ambre would ship 8.8 million tons of Powder River Basin coal each year to Asian markets using rails, river barges and ocean vessels.

In the export scenario, emissions of equivalent carbon dioxide dropped 21 percent, and other harmful emissions, including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, also dropped.

In addition, the export scenario would generate more than $25 billion in direct and indirect economic activity in the US, and would also directly or indirectly create nearly $6 billion in total employee compensation, $742 million in new tax revenues and about $4.7 billion in profits for all sectors involved.

According to the researchers, further studies are needed to assess the export scenario’s full environmental impacts, including water use, land use, the loss or degradation of vital fish and wildlife habitats, and risks associated with extraction and wastewater disposal of US shale gas deposits.

The study comes at a time when many countries are closing coal-fired power plants, and the practice of exporting coal from the US has come under fire.

Photo Credit: South Korea via Shutterstock

Leveraging EHS Software in Support of Culture Changes
Sponsored By: VelocityEHS

  
Approaches to Managing EHS&S Data
Sponsored By: Enablon

  
10 Tactics of Successful Energy Managers
Sponsored By: EnergyCap, Inc.

  
Choosing the Correct Emission Control Technology
Sponsored By: Anguil Environmental Systems

  

3 thoughts on “Exporting US Coal to Asia Could Cut Emissions

  1. I suspect this study to be fundamentally flawed, and I base that opinion on the following quote from the article: “For the reduction to occur, US plants would need to replace the exported coal with natural gas, and in South Korea the imported coal would need to replace other coal as the power source.”
    First, there appears to be no valid justification to assume that all the exported coal would represent coal that is being displaced with natural gas in this country. It seems far more likely that the exported coal would never have been mined under the ‘no export’ scenario; since to my knowledge there are exactly zero plans to coordinate coal-fired power plant closures with rising coal exports. Instead, coal-fired plant closures (or conversions) in the U.S. will take place at whatever pace is dictated by market conditions and by EPA or legislative actions. Similarly, rising coal exports will take place at whatever pace is dictated by coal export terminal construction and by market conditions. There is no linkage between the two, and therefore one cannot assume that the exported coal is being ‘replaced’ with natural gas at US plants.
    Second, there appears to be little assurance that the imported coal would replace other coal as the power source in South Korean plants. The dangerous possibility exists that the imported coal would simply be used to fuel ever-larger fleets of coal-fired plants in South Korea, which is nearly completely dependent on coal-fired electricity generation. So instead of replacing other coal, US exports might simply add to the total amount of coal burning in that country. What mechanism is in place to avoid such an outcome?
    Finally, consider this quote: “The superior energy efficiency of South Korea’s newer coal-fired power plants would offset the large amount of emissions produced by shipping the coal such a distance.” To the extent that this is true, then wouldn’t even greater net CO2 reductions be achieved by burning locally-sourced coal in those very same efficient plants?

  2. In addition to my arguments above, consider this: conversion of US coal-fired plants (or their outright retirements) is already taking place; and the US is already experiencing reductions in annual CO2 emissions as a direct result. All this is happening independently of any coal export activities of any kind. Coal exports are not required for the emissions reductions to be achieved.

  3. What I take away from this article is that South Korea uses far more efficient coal-fired power plants then even the US, so much so that they put us and other countries to blame in regards to fighting climate change.

Leave a Comment