How much coal is left?
We’re at or near peak coal.
Tad Patzek, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin on coal: Under the 40 different U.S. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios, Patzek found 36 of the 40 scenarios predicted future carbon production and CO2 emissions at today’s rate of coal production. Credible forecasts of coal production, by contrast, predict a 50 percent reduction over the next 50 years.
“Most of the IPCC scenario writers accepted the common myth of 200–400 years of coal supply, and now their “eternal” (100 years plus) growth of carbon dioxide emissions in turn is a part of the commonly accepted social myth,” says Patzek.
“The IPCC carbon estimates, which are used by all major decision makers, are based on economic and policy considerations that appear to be unconstrained by geophysics,” says Patzek. “The value of our approach is that it provides a reality check on the magnitude of carbon emissions.
Richard Heinberg and David Fridley. 18 November 2010. The end of cheap coal New forecasts suggest that coal reserves will run out faster than many believe. Energy policies relying on cheap coal have no future, say Richard Heinberg and David Fridley. Nature, vol 468 p 367-9
We believe that it is unlikely that world energy supplies can continue to meet projected demand beyond 2020.
a spate of recent studies (1–5) suggests that available, useful coal may be less abundant than has been assumed — indeed that the peak of world coal production may be only years away. One pessimistic study (1) concluded that global energy derived from coal could peak as early as 2011.
In terms of energy output, US coal production peaked in the late 1990s (volume continued to increase, but the coal was of lower energy content).
Global demand is growing rapidly
Resources are exaggerated.
A lot of coal is so difficult to get at it will probably remain in the ground. Such as China’s coal, 90% is from mines as much as 1,000 meters deep. We strongly suspect that the current reserves figures are too optimistic.
One way to estimate future production is to look at past production trends. This method was pioneered by geophysicist King Hubbert. Applying Hubbert analysis to coal, Chinese academics Tao and Li (7) forecast that China’s production will peak and begin to decline long as early as 2025. A forecast (3) by the Energy Watch Group, used a lower reserves figure of 114.5 billion tonnes to forecast a peak of production in 2015, with a rapid production decline commencing in 2020. During and after the period when production peaks, resource quality will dwindle and mining costs will rise, pushing up coal prices.
Coal consumption is accelerating fast, notably in China. This renders meaningless reserves-lifetime figures calculated on the basis of flat demand. A 2009 report from China’s Energy Research Institute forecast that coal demand would rise by 700 million to 1 billion tonnes by 2020, reducing the reserves lifetime to about 33 years. If coal demand grows in step with projected Chinese economic growth, the reserves lifetime would drop to just 19 years10.
1. Patzek, t. W. & Croft, G. D. Energy 35, 3109–3122 (2010).
2. Mohr, s. H. & evans, G. M. Fuel 88, 2059–2067 (2009).
3. Zittel, W. & schindler, J. energy Watch Group, Paper no. 1/07 (2007); available at http:// go.nature.com/jngfsa
4. rutledge, D. Hubbert’s Peak, The Coal Question, and Climate Change (2007): available at http:// rutledge.caltech.edu
5. Höök, M., Zittel, W., schindler, J. & aleklett, K. Fuel
89, 3546–3558 (2010).
6. 2010 Survey of Energy Resources (World energy Council, 2010); available at http://go.nature. com/hde5r7
7. tao, Z. & li, M. Energy Pol. 35, 3145–3154 (2007).
8. Campbell, C. J. & laherrère, J. H. the end of Cheap oil. Sci. Am. (March 1998).
9. energy information administration. Annual Energy Outlook 1998 (Doe/eia, 1997).
10. 2050 China Energy and CO2 Emissions Report (in Chinese) (science Press, 2009).
11. luppens, J. a. et al. Assessment of Coal Geology, Resources, and Reserves in the Gillette Coalfield, Powder River Basin, Wyoming. open-File report 2008-1202 (usGs, 2008).
12. Coal Reserves of the Matewan Quadrangle, Kentucky — A Coal Recoverability Study. us bureau of Mines Circular 9355 (usGs, 2003).
13. Strategic Analysis of the Global Status of Carbon Capture and Storage. (Global CCs institute, 2009)..