Harnessing energy from peat

Peat is a plant material created when decomposition fails usually because conditions are too cold, waterlogged, sterile or acidic. It can be thought of as coal at an early stage of development.

There may be 250,000 square miles of peat bogs.

Some poorer nations such as Ukraine would benefit if they could effectively use their domestic peat rather than import coal, gas or oil.

Famous for using peat to warm a stone cottage, Scotland and Ireland now use it to generate electric power. The Scotsman newspaper reports, “Crofters are shunning the traditional but time-consuming toil of cutting peat each summer, cutting peat slices measuring about 16 inches square and four inches thick, instead relying on Irish peat briquettes, coal, oil or electric heating. Even rises in energy prices have not been enough to get Highlanders back out on the moorlands to gather virtually free fuel – leading some to fear that the ancient art might be lost.

Peat cutting is not unique to Scotland and Ireland. It is also cut for fuel in Finland, Romania, Russia, Belarus, the Baltic states and in China. In Russia it is used for 30 per cent of their power stations. [link] One of the biggest deposits of peat is in Indonesia, and a peat-fired power station is generating electricity in Sumatra. The use of peat for power generation has also been studied in Argentina, Brazil, Canada and the United States.

The challenge for peat is drying and sizing the particles to feed into boilers. These costs often stop peat development. Today’s burners are often called reactors because of their sophisticated control of combustion. Without advanced engineering, fuels like peat can burn dirty, like coal, unless prepared prior to conveying, burned under controlled pressure and mixed atmospheres with variable responsive feed rates. However advanced and complete the combustion, current techniques still require condensing and scrubbing of exhausts.

Today’s new plants are usually not causing the pollution problems we’ve seen from “dirty coal”, peat, wood, or even our fireplaces. Most air pollution headlines about dirty solid fuel are based on emissions from many many hundreds of older plants where owners – nations – are reluctant to upgrade or scrap. In the USA, these older plants are paid for, stable, cheap to run, and make big profits for many complacent owners.

Here’s a link to using hollow fibre technology technology to making coal and solid fuels burn cleaner.

It’s surprising that firewood remains the number one method of cooking in the world.

Electricity is cleaner.