The other, safer side of coal use
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag () - November 19, 2008 - 12:00am

Trust journalists to immediately notice something amiss. When a select group of Cebu journalists visited Taiwan last week, the first time for most of them, the first thing they saw on leaving the airport at Taoyuan International was that the country was deserted.

The highways were naturally impeccable in that leading Asian economy, but where was everybody? There were almost no vehicles running on them. Instead they were all parked on the sides of streets, rows upon rows of parked cars and scooters that stretched endlessly on.

The reason for the seeming desolation was just as astounding. There was nobody out at daytime because everybody was inside working. A brief stop at a mall, which in the Philippines would be bursting with people, showed the same. Nobody inside but salesclerks fighting boredom.

But when the sun begins to set, Taiwan springs back to life, in many respects not in the same way that Filipinos know it. As highways and streets start to fill up with vehicles moving at scary speeds, there are never any accidents. Discipline ensures awareness of others.

This is the same discipline and awareness that make the coal-fired power plants in Taiwan, which use clean coal technology, virtually more safe than even other non-coal power plants anywhere else in the world. This was what the journalists from Cebu came to see.

In Cebu, a Metrobank subsidiary called Global Business Power Corp. has entered into a US$500 million joint venture with Formosa Heavy Industries for the construction of a 246 mw power plant in Toledo City, using clean coal technology. Expected completion date is 2010.

Global Power is the largest independent power producer in the Visayas, with a total current generating capacity of more than 230 mw from its existing Toledo Power Station and the Panay Power Station in Panay.

Its local partners for these projects are Aboitiz Power and Vivant Corporation. Aboitiz is a leading power generation and distribution company in the Philippines while Vivant has been in the power business for several decades in Cebu.

In the course of their Taiwan visit, the Cebu journalists toured two coal-fired plants operated by Formosa, both of them in populated and commercial areas, one even right next to a children’s school and a sporting facility, with none causing any health problems.

Coal may be one of the most frowned-upon sources of power. But until better means can be found, it may remain the most viable in the years to come. The good thing is that, aware of this fact, scientists have not stopped looking for ways to make coal use safer.

One such means is clean-coal technology. The basic problem with burning coal is the emission of toxic fumes and production of huge amounts of ash residue. Clean-coal technology has managed to address and eliminate this problem.

By burning coal at certain temperatures just below levels necessary to trigger chemical changes that give off toxic fumes, no such fumes are produced. And by a process that traps and eliminates solid particles like ash, only clean steam escapes and dissipates into the air.

This is, of course, just a simplification of a complex process. A more technical description may be required to fully understand and be convinced that the clean-coal process really works.

But since the opportunity for a full technical explanation and a first-hand look is not available for everybody, hence the need for messengers like journalists to be given the chance to see and pass on the info. 

Yet even journalists are no experts, and it would be going out on a limb to endorse what we cannot fully grasp. On the other hand, we had the chance to observe and freely form our own conclusions on what we saw. And from what we saw, any worries would seem farfetched.

ABOITIZ POWER AND VIVANT CORPORATION CEBU COAL FORMOSA HEAVY INDUSTRIES GLOBAL BUSINESS POWER CORP GLOBAL POWER IN CEBU POWER TAOYUAN INTERNATIONAL TOLEDO CITY TOLEDO POWER STATION AND THE PANAY POWER STATION
  • Latest
  • Trending
Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
X
Login

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

FORGOT PASSWORD?
SIGN IN
or sign in with