Clean Energy From Dirty Fuel: A Case For Coal Briquettes

Coal is often described as a dirty fuel emitting smoke that is offensive and containing constituents that are harmful to human health. Moreover, some raw coals are highly friable and are not easily handled or distributed in their natural state. However, by briquetting and carbonizing when necessary, coal can be put into a relatively clean, compact, and stable form for use. The resulting fuel is also not expensive.

Nigeria has 2.7 billion tons of raw coal spread in 13 states of the federation from south-east through central to the north-east geopolitical zones, and the quantity can sustain consumption for 200 years. The sulphur and ash content of Nigerian coal is small therefore it is environment friendly. It is also cheaper and easier to mine compared to crude oil.

Coal briquetting is a process by which raw coal is compacted into uniform, usually hard, and impact resistant agglomerations, making it more suitable for use, transport, and/or further processing.

Coal briquetting can be performed on lump coal or on coal fines, the later application often being an attempt to salvage an otherwise wasted product of coal handling. The usual process of coal briquetting consists of crushing, sizing, drying, possibly mixing with a binder, often heating, pressing in molds, cooling, and packaging or loading.

Fuel wood shortages are widespread throughout  the developing world, and are becoming increasingly more prevalent because of the clearing of land for subsistence and plantation agriculture, excessive and inefficient commercial timber harvesting for domestic and export construction, and charcoal production to meet rising urban demands.

Although substantial adverse health effects could be expected from burning coal or coal briquettes for cooking purposes, a well developed technique exists to convert coal to a safer form for combustion. This is coal carbonization, converting it to a “‘soft coke” by pyrolysis. This is similar to the conversion of wood to charcoal. During the heating of the coal without its combustion, volatile content is reduced, gas and tars containing some of the other harmful constituents are given off .The result is a product high in fixed carbon, which can be burned with little or no smoke and emissions no worse than the present practice of burning charcoal and firewood. Carbonization can be performed before or after briquetting.

Coal briquette is easier, safer to handle, store and transport compared to kerosene and LPG. The appliances for use in terms of Kerosene and LPG i.e gas cooker, kerosene stoves are costlier than coal stoves. As such smokeless coal is the best alternative to kerosene and LPG because of its availability, affordability, and the supply can be made more sustainable and therefore it qualifies to be the best alternative energy for rural and urban poor.

As the negative environmental and socioeconomic consequences of deforestation are both pervasive and complex, there are three energy policy options for mitigating the onslaught of deforestation and the inevitable and pernicious effects of fuel wood scarcities:- conservation, reforestation, and substitution.

Coal briquette is also a major foreign exchange earner for some countries because of the ever increasing demand worldwide. U.S. exports of Coal briquettes increased 100 percent from $2.01 billion to $5.56 billion through the first seven months of 2017 when compared to the same period the previous year, according to Worldcity analysis of the latest U.S. Census Bureau data. By July 2017, the top five sources of U.S. exports in this category were Brazil, India, Japan, South Korea and Netherlands.

In Nigeria an industrial pharmacist and specialist in marketing new technologies, Mr. Emmanuel Nwankwo, said Nigeria needs to go back to the basics, which is the use of coal since it has it in abundance. Diversification of coal into other areas that will move the economy is necessary because the use of coal has now been totally repackaged, redefined and there is a brand new analysis of how to use more cleaner coal that will erode all the negativity it had before. It is a brand technology innovation to use coal for domestic, household, industrial as well as institutional use. According to him, Nigeria can make N56billion in 3 years by reviving the coal industry, especially with the use of coal briquettes for industrial and domestic use.

Ayoka Anthony O. (HABITATCARE, tonyayokaok@gmail.com, 08035428236)