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Energies 2016, 9(7), 559; doi:10.3390/en9070559

Understanding the Contribution of Mining and Transportation to the Total Life Cycle Impacts of Coal Exported from the United States

1
Contractor to the National Energy Technology Laboratory, 626 Cochrans Mill Road, P.O. Box 10940, Pittsburgh, PA 15236, USA
2
National Energy Technology Laboratory, 626 Cochrans Mill Road, P.O. Box 10940, Pittsburgh, PA 15236, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Marco Raugei
Received: 15 April 2016 / Revised: 17 June 2016 / Accepted: 30 June 2016 / Published: 19 July 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Life-Cycle Assessment of Energy Systems in Current and Evolving Grids)
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Abstract

The construction of two marine bulk terminals in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States are currently under review and would open up additional thermal coal exports to Asia on the order of almost 100 million additional tonnes per year. The major exporters of coal to Asian markets include Indonesia and Australia. This life cycle analysis (LCA) seeks to understand the role of transportation and mining in the cradle-to-busbar environmental impacts of coal exports from the Powder River Basin (PRB) to Asian countries, when compared to the competitor countries. This LCA shows that: (1) the most significant greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts in the cradle-to-busbar life cycle of coal for power generation come from the combustion of coal in a power plant, even when 90% carbon capture is applied; (2) for non-GHG air impacts, power plant combustion impacts are less dominant and variations in upstream impacts (mining and transportation) are more important; and (3) when comparing impacts between countries, upstream impacts vary for both GHG and non-GHG results, but conclusions that rank countries cannot be made. Future research should include expansion to include non-air impacts, potential consequential effects of coal exports, and a better understanding around the characterization of non-GHG ocean transport impacts. View Full-Text
Keywords: coal exports; life cycle analysis; climate change; Powder River Basin; greenhouse gas emissions; power generation; electricity; impact assessment; Asian markets coal exports; life cycle analysis; climate change; Powder River Basin; greenhouse gas emissions; power generation; electricity; impact assessment; Asian markets
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MDPI and ACS Style

Mutchek, M.; Cooney, G.; Pickenpaugh, G.; Marriott, J.; Skone, T. Understanding the Contribution of Mining and Transportation to the Total Life Cycle Impacts of Coal Exported from the United States. Energies 2016, 9, 559.

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