Coal Consumption in the United Kingdom

Energy consumption in the United Kingdom has gradually increased over the years from the highest sales of 280 in 2006 to 332 in 2008. The main types of energy consumed by the United Kingdom were fossil fuel and natural gas. Other sources of energy utilized in the UK are: coal, nuclear energy, renewable and hydroelectric power. Total energy consumed in 2011 comprised 10.23exajoules. This energy was consumed for both domestics and industrial purposes. The coal consumption in the UK in 2011 is discussed in this paper. The UK and EU passed legislations to reduce fossil fuel usage mainly to reduce its effect on the climate and environment. Coal consumption data provided is gathered through an extensive research of proper literature. The paper will show the declining of coal consumption in the UK due to various factors, thought still there is an increase in energy consumption.

Coal is a type of energy which forms a big part of the world’s energy production. Other types of fossil fuels include: petroleum, oil and natural gas. These types of fossil fuels are greatly utilized in factories. Coal is burnt to produce energy and this is increasingly becoming an environmental issue. Environmental problems arising from fossil fuel combustion include greenhouse gas accumulation, acid rains, air pollution and water pollution. Due to this negative effect on the environment, the UK and the majority of the European countries signed a treaty to reduce on fossil fuel consumption (Miller et al. 2004). Coal has been a main source of energy in the world over the years. In the 21st century the UK is trying to reducing its consumption as seen in the statistics published by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC). In July 2009 the UK government determined to generate 30% of its energy from renewable sources and 40% of its energy from low CO2-content fuels by 2020. The fuel mix for domestic consumption has significantly changed since 1970, when 39 % of energy consumed was coal, 24% natural gas and 18% electricity; this changed to 8% coal, 63% gas and 18% electricity in 1990; and to 1% coal, 69% natural gas and 21% electricity in 2010. This is shown in the graph below:

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In 2010, energy consumption by the domestic sector comprised 48,871 tons of oil equivalent. This was 31% higher than in 1970. However, coal consumption has been significantly reduced due to its effects on the environment. Coal consumption constituted 51.5 million tons in 2010. Most of it (41.5 million tons) was used for electricity consumption. Coal production is divided into 3 stages: deep mining, surface mining and indigenous coal production. In 2010 deep mining produced 7.4 million tons, surface mining produced 9.77 million tons, and indigenous mining produced 41.7 million tons of domestic electricity (Miller et al. 2004).

Coal is found in four diverse types or ranks: lignite (brown coal), bituminous (black coal), anthracite and graphite. The various types of coal are determined by diverse physical properties which are characterized by water content, volatility and carbon composition. These aspects are used in coal analysis (Boyle et al. 2003).

Coal analysis is done in the following ways:

Water Content Analysis

Water content is estimated by calculating weight loss after the analysis sample is heated between temperatures of 100°C and 120°C. The ASTM method is not accurate for low-rank coals because it does not use the purge gas and gives a very short drying time period. Oxidation gain in weight can take place as the sample reacts with oxygen in the air, and not all of the water content heated to 100-120°C is given out during the allowed one-hour drying time. In addition, with certain low-rank coals, decarboxylation during the drying period can cause weight loss. Calculation of sulfur, ash, and trace element data to water-free bases is conducted, so ASTM method is similar to the IS0method. The coal in heated in an oven at 100-l20°C for three hours. The oven is purged with dry, purified, and preheated nitrogen.

Ash Content Analysis

The ash found in coal is the non-burnt residue that remains when coal is used. In the ASTM method, the coal sample is placed in a cold furnace and heated gradually till the temperature reaches 390 to 480°C in an hour and 710 to 800°C at the end of the second hour. The IS0method recommends 807°C final temperature to constant weight. We recommend the use of nitric-perchloric acid digestions and oxygen bomb combustion in the preparation of coal samples for petrochemical analysis (Boyle et al. 2003). These procedures remove irrelevance pertaining with potential losses by volatilization during the sample preparation.

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Volatility Analysis

In determining the amount of volatile matter other than moisture, one should heat the coal at a rapid rate in a vertical tube furnace maintained at 950 ±20. Another procedure, commonly referred to as the modified method, involves burning the coal in the same furnace at a preferable slower rate. These methods are warranted because certain fuels (such as lignite and peat) spark when burnt at the rapid rate, causing considerable capital loss through mechanical loss. Slow rate of burning is used in the modified method and reduces sparking.

Chemical Analysis

The amount of oxygen, hydrogen and sulphur in coal is also estimated. Sulphur is analyzed to determine whether it is of sulphide mineral origin or if it comes in a sulphate form. Sulphide content is the measure of iron content in the coal, determined by the amount of sulphur in the form of iron pyrite or the sulphites dissolute in hydrochloric acid. Carbonate minerals are analyzed in the same way, by measuring the carbon dioxide let out when the coal is subjected to hydrochloric acid. Calcium is the carbonate necessary for the combustible and incombustible carbon content. Iron, phosphorus and chlorine and are also determined to characterize the coal’s suitability for manufacturing steel (Boyle et al. 2003).

Another method of analysis is ascertaining the coal’s relative density or specific density and percentage of impurity. Particle size distribution of processed coal depends on the coal’s quality, which determines its brittleness, and on the processing undergone. Float-sink test proves that coal has diverse distinctive densities, defined by vitrine content, quality, ash, water content and porosity. Abrasion testing is another analysis test applied. Abrasion is the coal’s property which determines its response to machinery and its effects on the machinery and ability to fray equipment and suffer crushing (Benduhn et al. 2008).

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Coal has been a major aspect of UK’s energy production. However, now its usage has been significantly reduced. This has been done in many European countries as one of the measures to curb emission of pollutants resulting from fossil fuel combustion. Scientists continue to conduct researches in order to determine better ways to use coal and reduce its harm to the environment.

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