Lignite, sometimes called ‘brown coal’, is a soft, brown sedimentary rock that is essentially compressed peat. It is used almost exclusively as a fuel in steam-electric power stations. Lignite is a poor fuel. Compared to other types of coal it produces less heat and more carbon dioxide and sulphur. Some brown coal contains toxic heavy metals that get burned off or remain in the fly ash.
Lignite Or Bust
But if it’s all you’ve got then that’s what you burn, up and until someone points out what a bad idea it is environmentally. The Garzweiler surface mine in Germany is an opencast lignite mine. It’s huge, a long scar stretching north west to south east covering 48 square km.
And now for the news. It’s going to get bigger.
Because Russia turned off the gas tap, RWE who own the mine need more space. So an array of eight wind turbines near the Garzweiler mine are being removed to increase the opencast area so it can mine more lignite. Under its licence, Energiekontor, which owns the wind turbines, has to dismantle the turbines by the end of 2023. Why, I don’t know. Three turbines have gone, already.
I guess that if the lignite mine did not need the space, then eight new wind turbines could have gone up. But that’s not what’s happening. So no Russian gas, but home grown lignite.
What is the overall balance of environmental cost? It’s worse, that’s clear. How much worse, I don’t know. But lobbyists at COP27 are promoting gas as a clean fuel…