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Poland hopeful coal's the future, not just the past

Monday, September 01, 2014 - 01:42

Polish scientists and mine directors say they're hopeful that successful experiments with coal gasifying could lead to a greater ability to extract deep lying layers of the fossil fuel, and potentially greener ways of using it in a country where CO2 emissions are already high. Joel Flynn reports.

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Polish scientists and mine directors say they're hopeful that successful experiments with coal gasification could make it easier to extract deep lying layers of the fossil fuel, and potentially greener ways of using it in a country where CO2 emissions are already high. STORY: Think of coal and chances are you picture dirty rocks and thick plumes of smoke. But the fuel that drove the Industrial Revolution could help power the future, if technology can keep up. In Katowice in Poland scientists are hoping that's the case. They've successfully converted underground coal into gas, and extracted that on the surface. Professors at the Global Coal Mining Institute here say it's a significant development. SOUNDBITE: Global Coal Mining Institute (Katowice) Project Head, Professor Krzysztof Stanczyk, saying (Polish): "We were worried about some problems, but the concerns about the consistency and stability of the gas turned out to be unnecessary, as our gasification process allowed us to extract a stable composition. Thanks to this it will be easier to use in the places that its needed, like engines, turbines and chemical synthesis." The gasifying process works by blasting coal with air or steam while it's still underground, igniting deposits and sending the resulting gas to the surface. Poland needs to make its energy sector cleaner - it's already emitting too much CO2 and most of its coal is currently too deep to reach. Supporters say this new process could make the traditionally dirty energy cleaner than ever. There remain arguments about the necessity of coal usage - with economic concerns often trumping environmental worries. But mine director Marek Pieszczek insists this innovation in extraction could be a game changer. SOUNDBITE: "Wieczorek" Mine Director, Marek Pieszczek, saying (Polish): "This new technology works on top of classic methods of extraction, but focuses on exploiting coal too deep underground for current methods of extraction to get to." If improvements in places like Katowice continue, extracting coal in this way could be part of our energy solution for years to come.

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Poland hopeful coal's the future, not just the past

Monday, September 01, 2014 - 01:42