Science & Technology

How to Save Billions of Gallons of Water: Replace Coal With Gas or Renewables

Switching from coal to pure fuel and renewables for electrical energy technology might save a minimum of 12,000 billion gallons of water a yr by 2030, a Duke College examine finds.

The continued transition from coal to pure fuel and renewables within the U.S. electrical energy sector is dramatically lowering the trade’s water use, a brand new Duke College examine finds.

“Whereas most consideration has been targeted on the local weather and air high quality advantages of switching from coal, this new examine reveals that the transition to pure fuel – and much more so, to renewable power sources – has resulted in saving billions of gallons of water,” mentioned Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water high quality at Duke’s Nicholas Faculty of the Surroundings.  

These financial savings in each water consumption and water withdrawal have come regardless of the intensification of water use related to fracking and shale fuel manufacturing, the brand new examine reveals.  

“For each megawatt of electrical energy produced utilizing pure fuel as an alternative of coal, the quantity of water withdrawn from native rivers and groundwater is decreased by 10,500 gallons, the equal of a 100-day water provide for a typical American family,” mentioned Andrew Kondash, a postdoctoral researcher at Duke, who led the examine as half of his doctoral dissertation below Vengosh.

Water consumption – the quantity of water utilized by an influence plant and by no means returned to the setting – drops by 260 gallons per megawatt, he mentioned.  

At these charges of discount, if the rise of shale fuel as an power supply and the decline of coal continues by the following decade, by 2030 about 483 billion cubic meters of water will probably be saved every year, the Duke examine predicts.

If all coal-fired energy crops are transformed to pure fuel, the annual water financial savings will attain 12,250 billion gallons – that’s 260% of present annual U.S. industrial water use.

Though the magnitude of water use for coal mining and fracking is comparable, cooling techniques in pure fuel energy crops use a lot much less water on the whole than these in coal crops. That may rapidly add up to substantial financial savings, since 40% of all water use in the US at the moment goes to cooling thermoelectric crops, Vengosh famous.

“The quantity of water used for cooling thermoelectric crops eclipses all its different makes use of within the electrical energy sector, together with for coal mining, coal washing, ore, and fuel transportation, drilling and fracking,” he mentioned.

Even additional financial savings may very well be realized by switching to photo voltaic or wind power. The brand new examine reveals that the water depth of these renewable power sources, as measured by water use per kilowatt of electrical energy, is only one% to 2% of coal or pure fuel’s water depth.

“Switching to photo voltaic or wind power would remove a lot of the water withdrawals and water consumption for electrical energy technology within the U.S.,” Vengosh mentioned.

Pure fuel overtook coal as the first fossil gasoline for electrical energy technology in the US in 2015, primarily due to the rise of unconventional shale fuel exploration. In 2018, 35.1% of U.S. electrical energy got here from pure fuel, whereas 27.4% got here from coal, 6.5% got here from wind power, and a couple of.3% got here from photo voltaic power, in accordance to the U.S. Power Data Administration (EIA).

Dalia Patiño-Echeverri, Gendell Affiliate Professor of Power Techniques at Duke’s Nicholas Faculty, co-authored the examine with Kondash and Vengosh.

They revealed their peer-reviewed paper on October 14, 2019, within the open entry journal Environmental Analysis Letters.

Funding for the examine got here from a Nationwide Science Basis grant (#EAR-1441497) and the Duke College Power Initiative.

Reference: “Quantification of the Water-Use Discount Related to the Transition from Coal to Pure Gas within the U.S. Electrical energy Sector” by Andrew J. Kondash, Dalia Patiño-Echeverri and Avner Vengosh, 14 October 2019, Environmental Analysis Letters.
DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab4d71

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