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LETTER OF THE DAY - Press ahead with coal

Published:Wednesday | April 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

I was pleased to see your editorial of February 28, 2014 titled 'Discuss coal rationally'.

Coal is now the cheapest energy source to produce electricity. As LNG is used more and more in the United States, the price of LNG will probably increase while, with decreasing demand for coal, the price will probably decrease, particularly given the coal projects being pursued in Colombia, Venezuela, etc.

I think JPS and other power providers will be in a better position to negotiate coal prices than LNG prices over time.

The infrastructure required for coal is simple and safe - i.e. port facilities to accommodate the coal ships of the sizes being used for coal transport to minimise the shipping costs and rail and/or conveyor as necessary to the point of use. Please note also that one doesn't see environmental disasters, including fires, from coal operations on sea or land.

With LNG, there are issues, infrastructure, costs, and dangers associated with transport, gasification, etc.

Regarding pollution issues, I invite all to look at Caribbean Cement Company's recent expansion and note the wisps of steam coming out of the chimney - not the black smoke many envisaged. Burning either LNG or coal will produce CO2, though on a lesser scale with LNG. But Jamaica should easily achieve carbon offset with the amount of vegetative cover we have.

More critically, the SO2 and SO3 (which convert to sulphonic/sulphuric acids) up the chimney are removed in modern coal-fired plants by burning the coal mixed with the appropriate percentage of CACO3 (limestone), which produces solid waste (CASO4, etc), which is inert and easily disposed of in mined-out areas.

Particulates are removed by modern filters, producing residue (fly ash), which is itself useful as an additive to cement.

JPS had indeed, in the 1990s, done a feasibility study for a 600MW coal-fired power plant with a first phase of 200MW to be on stream by 2005. This was at Burial Ground Point, where there is easy access to the Alcoa railway line and, in turn, inexpensive access to limestone and waste-disposal sites essential to a modern coal-fired plant.

Why we went off on this LNG track, God only knows - or maybe we were dreaming that Trinidad would let us have cheap LNG.

If the Energy World International proposal falls through, we should consider scrapping the LNG approach and fire on all cylinders with the coal solution - but with the latest technology, not traditional Chinese technology. In any case, coal should be the fuel used for future generating capacity for baseload.

JOHN ALLGROVE

Kingston 6