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Climate effects of electricity production fuelled by coal, forest slash and municipal solid waste with and without carbon capture

Sathre, Roger, Gustavsson, Leif, Truong, Nguyen Le
Energy 2017 v.122 pp. 711-723
carbon, carbon dioxide, carbon sequestration, climate, coal, electricity, forests, global cooling, greenhouse gas emissions, landfills, methane, municipal solid waste, power plants, primary energy, radiative forcing, slash
We analyse the climate implications of producing electricity in large-scale conversion plants using coal, forest slash and municipal solid waste with and without carbon capture and storage (CCS). We calculate the primary energy, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) emission profiles, and the cumulative radiative forcing (CRF) of different systems that produce the same amount of electricity. We find that using slash or waste for electricity production instead of coal somewhat increases the instantaneous CO2 emission from the power plant, but avoids significant subsequent emissions from decaying slash in forests or waste in landfills. For slash used instead of coal, we find robust near- and long-term reductions in total emissions and CRF. Climate effects of using waste instead of coal are more ambiguous: CRF is reduced when CCS is used, but without CCS there is little or no climate benefits of using waste directly for energy, assuming that landfill gas is recovered and used for electricity production. The application of CCS requires more fuel, but strongly reduces the CO2 emissions. The use of slash or waste together with CCS results in negative net emissions and CRF, i.e. global cooling.