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Lecture 7

ENSC 2001 Lecture Notes - Lecture 7: Permafrost, Metamorphism, Surface Mining

Environmental Science
Course Code
ENSC 2001
Quentin Gall

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Fundamental lifeblood for industrialization
Disproportionate amount of energy resources demanded and consumed in developed countries
(small proportion of populations)
Growing challenges: how to break energy dependency get sustain development and high
standard of living.
Energy Shock: constant worries from past to present and to the future over the price, dependency,
power failures.
[Rome: wood] [1970, oil peak cost] [1998, St Lawrence electricity, great ice storm, local energy shock.]
[2003, power blackout Easter US and ON, failure of local power transmission due to inter-dependent
power grid]
Energy Supply and Demand
Fossil fuels (non-renewable resource): 90% of US energy consumption (10% from hydropower
and nuclear power)
Conventional fossil fuel peak discoveries in 1960
Energy consumption increasing over time due to population increase.
Bridging fuel: used to bridge from fossil fuel to renewable energy.
Fossil Fuel
Transformed from the solar energy originally stored in organic matter.
Organic matter buried and preserved as fossil fuels.
Geologically stored in subsurface sedimentary rocks.
Types: coal, petroleum, natural gas.
Environment impact: significant impact from exploration, production, processing, and distribution.
[main source of pollution & degradation]
9.5 % in CA, 2015 we stop burning in ON. 80% China has most abundant coal resources (most proven
reserves), followed by US and Russia .
5 billions of tons of consumption
Geology of coal
Coal: transformed plant matter in ancient swamps. (estuaries, lagoons, low-lying coastal plains,
or delta environment)
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Coal forming process
Massive dead plants buried in an anaerobic environment (water-saturated soils exclude
oxygen) partially decomposed in this oxygen-deficient environmentforming a thick layer
called peat prolonged burial and transformation to increase carbon content coal
Peat gets buried by sediment and sinks down, changing to granite, and further to lignite as time
goes by and bituminous in the end.
Water and volatile material escapes due to built-on pressure, causing carbon content to
Classification of coal
Rank based on carbon content (%) and carbon value on combustion.
lignite < subbituminous < bituminous < anthracite
With the increase in rank, generally higher carbon content, higher caloric values, less volatile
gas, and less moisture content.
Rank based on sulfur content.
Lowe ( <1% ), medium ( 1% - 3% ), high ( > 3% )
Metamorphism increases rank of coal.
Mining Coal
Surface strip mining: cheaper but more environmental damage.
Two types of surface strip mining
Area mining: used on flat places
Contour mining: used on hilly places
Environmental Impact of Coal
Land disturbances from open-pit and striping
Subsidence over subsurface mines
Mining area acid drainage
Surface water and groundwater pollution
Air pollution from thermoelectric power plants
acid vain, respiration problems, soot on buildings
sulfur gets out: SO42- -> SO2 -> H2SO4 => acid rain
Disposal of coal ash (5% to 20% of original coal)
Ash: residue that can’t be buried and needed to be disposed, eg. Heavy metal such as mercury.
Area ecosystem degradation due to mining practices and inadequate land reclamation
Dangerous mining
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