Coal In Texas.

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by HK_User, Jun 4, 2018.

  1. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    The little-known coal of Texas
    By Ingrid Lobet

    Oil, and then natural gas, made Texas famous. Now it’s famous as well for having far and away the most wind energy of any state. But here’s a little-known fact: Texas is a major coal producer, and its coal is not like most other states’ coal. It’s an infant phase, still damp, called lignite.

    “Basically it is brown dirt,” says Fred Beach, assistant director at the University of Texas Energy Institute. “Oily mud is another way we commonly refer to it.”

    Half an hour out of Austin, a dragline removes earth to get to lignite coal below. (Photo: Ingrid Lobet)

    Just past the town of Elgin, known for its barbecue and sausage, there’s a dragline practically hanging over the road on a recent day.

    “Most people in Austin really have no clue that there is a strip mine located only 30 miles away from the city,” says Tom Edgar, director of the University of Texas Energy Institute. “We pay more attention to renewable energy. So it’s kind of a well-kept secret.”

    About a dozen Texas coal mines lie in a necklace from Louisiana toward the border with Mexico, across the giant state. That line is no accident. It traces the ancient shoreline of Texas. Millennia ago, vegetation, trees and woody matter were deposited here.

    “Given enough time, given pressure and heat, you actually form this coal-like substance,” Edgar says.

    The coal-like substance is called brown coal in Europe, where it still makes up a substantial piece of the power pie.

    But it’s not so carbon rich. You need to burn almost twice as much lignite as bituminous coal to get the same amount of energy, according to Coal Data, A Reference, and the Energy Information Administration.

    “You also get a whole lot more ash generated,” says Beach. “You get more particulate in the exhaust fume gases. So lignite has a lot going against it.”

    It’s also wet.

    “A lot of the energy that could be used to produce electricity is actually used to evaporate the water,” says J.P. Nicot, of UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology.

    But Texas figured out a way to make this low quality fuel pencil out nonetheless, about three decades ago. It started building the coal power plants right next to the mines. They’re called mine mouth power plants.

    “You’re literally digging it out of the ground, putting it on a conveyor belt, and it’s going right into the power plant,” Beach says.

    There are two reasons to avoid shipping lignite long distances. It’s expensive, and lignite has a tendency to catch fire.

    Coal mining regions in Texas. (Source: Texas Almanac)

    But when the power plant is right next to the mine, the fuel is cheap, it’s steady and it’s local. In short, it’s irreplaceable, says Mike Nasi, an attorney with the Gulf Coast Lignite Coalition. Together with coal imported from outside the state, this is how Texas generates more than a third of its juice.

    “It’s a significant hedge against price volatility,” Nasi says. “It’s only 38 percent of our grid, but it’s an extremely valuable part.”

    (According to ERCOT, the independent system operator for Texas, coal generated 36 percent of electricity in 2014.)

    Texas’ power-heavy industries, like refining and chemicals, rely on this inexpensive power. This is in large part why Texas so fiercely opposes the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which forces reductions in carbon emissions from each state’s power generators.

    “It’s not just the coal producers and power producers that show up and ask for policies to be reasonable,” Nasi says. “It is Dow chemical. It is Occidental Petroleum. It is Valero. And the reason is their single highest line-item cost is electricity.”

    The CO2 cuts vary by state. Between a third and half of Texas’ coal power plants will likely close. But Nasi says that doesn’t mean Texas’ second-rate coal is going to stay in the ground now, as climate scientists say it should.

    “Lignite is going to continue to power that fleet,” he says.
    3M-TA3, arleigh, Tully Mars and 7 others like this.
  2. T. Riley

    T. Riley Monkey+++

    Made some land owners rich in East Texas a few years back.
  3. Zimmy

    Zimmy Wait, I'm not ready!

    I've done some blacksmith work with Texas lignite coal. The sulfur is fierce.
  4. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    The only coal I used I collected from a hump in the tracks of the Rock Island Line tracks at a bridge.
    The trains came came from the west and the coal was as hard as diamonds and black as the inside of a well. It was easy to turn into coke.
    Tully Mars likes this.
  5. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    I would buy some.
  6. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    I'm not around there now. But if you look up Bill Bagwell's email he may be able to tell you where he gets his. His comes in 50lb sacks and is super clean.
    Or go on line and see who is selling hard coal by the sack for knife folks.
    Zimmy likes this.
  7. arleigh

    arleigh Goophy monkey

    It's nice to know the resource exists ,and It seems to me that environmentally it has no redeeming value being left in the ground.
    It would be worth it to find a safe way to stock pile the resource for the lean times ahead.
  8. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    Coal by the sack shipped is expensive.
    I wanted it for home heating, mostly.

    As long as you don't buy lignite you can store it in a pile on the ground.
  9. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    As long as you collect the runoff before the EPA waltzes up to your door with a citation for crapping up the creeks --. But yes, bituminous and anthracite are reasonably happy exposed to weather. Spontaneous combustion in both are known, but not frequent.
  10. oil pan 4

    oil pan 4 Monkey+++

    I don't even know where the nearest creek is. No where near me that's for sure.
  11. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    EPA has their ways.
  12. Zimmy

    Zimmy Wait, I'm not ready!


    I don't have Bill's email. I guess I could call him and ask

    He a good man, by God.
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