Lignite, sometimes called ‘brown coal’, is a soft, brown sedimentary rock that is essentially compressed peat.
It is a poor fuel compared to other types of coal. It produces less heat and more carbon dioxide and sulphur. And some brown coal contains toxic heavy metals that get burned off or remain in the fly ash after burning.
It is used almost exclusively as a fuel in steam-electric power stations.
Lignite Or Bust
If lignite is 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 bad news. It’s going to get bigger.
Because Russia turned off the gas tap, RWE who own the mine need more space to strip out more brown coal. 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 dirty brown 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…
What is the effect on decisions made in Britain?
You know how people are influenced by their environment?
Well, when the British Government wants to open a new coal mine, and someone in the EU wants to say that’s bad, the Minister (Michale Gove MP) can say ‘Look who’s talking – look what you have done at Garzweiler
Report in the Guardian 7 December 2022
The UK will build its first new coalmine for three decades at Whitehaven in Cumbria, despite objections locally, across the UK and from around the world.
Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, gave the green light for the project on Wednesday, paving the way for an estimated investment of £165m that will create about 500 new jobs in the region and produce 2.8m tonnes of coking coal a year, largely for steelmaking.
The mine will also produce an estimated 400,000 tones of greenhouse gas emissions a year, increasing the UK’s emissions by the equivalent of putting 200,000 cars on the road.
The vast majority of the coal produced will be for export, as most UK steel producers have rejected the use of the coal, which is high in sulphur and surplus to their needs.