# USING COAL PLANT EXHAUST TO CREATE ARABLE LAND AND/OR AID FAST GROWTH TREE FARMS

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Is it possible for a coal plant to pipe some of it's exhaust into a greenhouse-like structure filled with worthless mineral deficient dirt and infuse it with carbon to the point it turns into valuable soil capable of growing food with?

Or if the greenhouse-like structure was filled with fast growing trees, as part of a for-profit tree farm, would this aid, stunt or be neutral to their growth?

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Plants need: CO2, H2O, NH3 and/or NH4OH and/or NH4NO3 and other nutrients with various other elements. Higher availability of CO2 will be of course welcome, but soon other bottlenecks will be reached in other areas. i.e. lack of light (artificial or from the Sun), lack of nitrogen-rich nutrients.

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1 hour ago, Philandes said:

Is it possible for a coal plant to pipe some of it's exhaust into a greenhouse-like structure filled with worthless mineral deficient dirt and infuse it with carbon to the point it turns into valuable soil capable of growing food with?

Or if the greenhouse-like structure was filled with fast growing trees, as part of a for-profit tree farm, would this aid, stunt or be neutral to their growth?

Passing CO2 over poor soil won’t improve its fertility, but increasing the CO2 content of air in a greenhouse does accelerate growth. This has been widely done for years in the Netherlands, where a gas engine is used to generate electricity to light them in winter months, exhaust is used to promote growth and waste heat to warm them. This is done commercially to produce tomatoes, capsicums etc all year round for supermarkets.

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3 hours ago, Philandes said:

Is it possible for a coal plant to pipe some of it's exhaust into a greenhouse-like structure filled with worthless mineral deficient dirt and infuse it with carbon to the point it turns into valuable soil capable of growing food with?

Or if the greenhouse-like structure was filled with fast growing trees, as part of a for-profit tree farm, would this aid, stunt or be neutral to their growth?

Raw coal-fired power station flue gas is hot.

So to use it, you have to cool it down to a level that will not kill your vegetation.

When you cool it to that degree much of the water content condenses out, dissolves the SOx and NOx combustion products, and produces a very acidic 'rain', which will likewise kill your vegetation.

At least partial removal of the NOx and SOx is possible (I was involved in commissioning a few stages of the Flue-gas Desulphurisation Project at Drax Power Station in the 1990s) but it is a seriously expensive process.

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7 hours ago, Philandes said:

Is it possible for a coal plant to pipe some of it's exhaust into a greenhouse-like structure filled with worthless mineral deficient dirt and infuse it with carbon to the point it turns into valuable soil capable of growing food with?

Or if the greenhouse-like structure was filled with fast growing trees, as part of a for-profit tree farm, would this aid, stunt or be neutral to their growth?

Others have already commented on the unwanted chemical side effcts of your proposal. +1 each.

So I will concentrate on asking how you would achieve your desired ones.

How would the chemistry of 'infusing with carbon' work ?

What would be the production rate of such a process and what would ecological transport costs of placing it somewhere useful ?

Why would you need a greenhouse-like structure ? Why would an ordinary shed not do and how big would that shed be ?

I would just like to add that Drax represents one of the biggest cover ups of wasted public money and effort in our history.

Edited by studiot
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The two ideas of using coal plant exhaust co2to produce arable land and aid faster growth of the fastest growing species of trees in a commercial tree farm are ideas independent of each other and are not tied to the other. These two ideas were simply my off-the-cuff suggestion for possible solutions to dealing with coal plant emissions.

I don't see a bottleneck of light and nutrients as an issue as the seedlings will be re-planted outside in an orchard-type fashion with co2 releasing piping laid on the ground in the most efficient pattern for feeding the co2 to the trees. The trees themselves will be planted in nutrient rich soil.

To infuse the dirt to make arable soil, I was thinking of pits or trenches, rectangular with the pipes running the length, that would force coal plant exhaust into the soil. Vegetation/fertilizer could be added to provide the proper balance of nutrients. A churning and watering system would also have to be designed to aerate/mix and moisten the product.

If a good product of arable soil could be produced, it could be simply trucked in state to distributions centers, nurseries, farmers or any other customer. As many states have coal-fired plants, this would produce an opportunity for a private international company with company owned and or franchises in most states and countires. Or most likely an add on division of the company which owns the coal fired power plant. The CLEAN COAL DREAM will be that much closer to fruition; and any reduction of carbon emmisions into the atmosphere at profit, or worst case scenario just pays for itself, is good for the coal industry in public relations and community goodwil.

If arable soil could not be produced using coal plant exhaust, I feel the increased production of board feet in a commercial tree farm venture would be the best viable option.

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There is no clean coal dream.  Delusion, perhaps.   Releasing CO2 adjacent to tree foliage is still releasing it into the air, where most of it will disperse into the atmosphere.  And the cost of most of what you describe would make coal power even MORE expensive per kwh, and so solar/wind/geo/tidal would look even better.  Where I live, wind is already considerably cheaper than coal, as it is many places.  Base load power will be cheaper through storage technologies to even out troughs.

And the CO2-to-arable-soil makes no sense at all.  Soil is porous and gases can't be contained in it, or transform the soil in the way you conjecture.   Plants absorb CO2 through leaves, i.e. from the air.

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23 minutes ago, Philandes said:

The two ideas of using coal plant exhaust co2to produce arable land and aid faster growth of the fastest growing species of trees in a commercial tree farm are ideas independent of each other and are not tied to the other. These two ideas were simply my off-the-cuff suggestion for possible solutions to dealing with coal plant emissions.

I don't see a bottleneck of light and nutrients as an issue as the seedlings will be re-planted outside in an orchard-type fashion with co2 releasing piping laid on the ground in the most efficient pattern for feeding the co2 to the trees. The trees themselves will be planted in nutrient rich soil.

To infuse the dirt to make arable soil, I was thinking of pits or trenches, rectangular with the pipes running the length, that would force coal plant exhaust into the soil. Vegetation/fertilizer could be added to provide the proper balance of nutrients. A churning and watering system would also have to be designed to aerate/mix and moisten the product.

If a good product of arable soil could be produced, it could be simply trucked in state to distributions centers, nurseries, farmers or any other customer. As many states have coal-fired plants, this would produce an opportunity for a private international company with company owned and or franchises in most states and countires. Or most likely an add on division of the company which owns the coal fired power plant. The CLEAN COAL DREAM will be that much closer to fruition; and any reduction of carbon emmisions into the atmosphere at profit, or worst case scenario just pays for itself, is good for the coal industry in public relations and community goodwil.

If arable soil could not be produced using coal plant exhaust, I feel the increased production of board feet in a commercial tree farm venture would be the best viable option.

Whilst it is interesting to discuss generalities, it is up to you to explain the chemistry of how it works, especially in the Chemistry section.

But so far you have only offered generalities.

If you injected carbon dioxide into any type of earth material, what chemistry would be involved to keep it there ?

Why would it react at all rather than just dissipate ?

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22 minutes ago, Philandes said:

The trees themselves will be planted in nutrient rich soil.

The most important nutrients are e.g. NH3, NH4OH, NH4NO3.. Do you see any sign of CO2 in them? No..
Fast growth requires artificial nutrients i.e. made by the chemical industry.

23 minutes ago, Philandes said:

I don't see a bottleneck of light and nutrients as an issue as the seedlings will be re-planted outside in an orchard-type fashion with co2 releasing piping laid on the ground in the most efficient pattern for feeding the co2 to the trees.

CO2 is taken up by green parts of plants i.e. tree leaves..

Greenhouses are solid constructs which can have much higher concentration of CO2 than ordinary air, but they must be closed, so CO2 does not escape. Which limits height of plants by height of the construction.

29 minutes ago, Philandes said:

To infuse the dirt to make arable soil,

You don't seem to understand what soil is.... It is the remains of dead plants and other organisms, decomposed in the oven thousands and millions of years.

32 minutes ago, Philandes said:

that would force coal plant exhaust into the soil.

Pumping CO2 into the soil.. ?

Again, CO2 is taken up by green parts of plants i.e. tree leaves..

39 minutes ago, Philandes said:

If arable soil could not be produced using coal plant exhaust,

Hydroponics goes reverse route - do not use soil at all..

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Neither proposal would make power from coal MORE EXPENSIVE. They are both meant to be profitable ventures or break even ventures.

Only the up front captitol and expenses until these hit the black in terms of revenue would be needed which is an investment in the land, infrastructure of diversionary lines from exhaust towers to, facilites built to operate either proposed plan of action, and all support areas, equipement and resources to make the whole functional.

But, the breakdown of raw elements into the dirt, with water and carbon (along with other chemicals) being pupmed under pressure into the churning mix is basic science, whether it will work in the way I am proposing will be up to the expert opinion of a chemist, which is why I signed up to join this forum. I am NOT a chemist. My major two sources of science that I respect the most in the world are two people I follow on YouTube, Neil DeGrasse Tyson great astrophysicist/teacher/public science enthuser and fantastic explainer and Yuri Kovalenok, a brilliant Russian physicist and I believe one of the smartest guys in the word in his ability to attract attention to science for people who aren't scientists or otherwise big science people through turning his physic notes into cool T-shirts and other items.

I was hoping a professional chemist would glance over the idea and vet the idea on the merits presented as to the likelyhood of success.

Just presenting the idea, if not viable in either instance helps juggle the collective brain to think outside the box and find some other variation or go in a compleety different path. However, I would more rather that it work without my seeking a patent myself for the system or claim it as mine. I would like to clean coal. many peole are against it the way satan is against Jesus Christ and they will have no talk or discussion on any clean coal idea.

But, coal is abundant and the nations that have it would benefit greatly from being abe to use it safer if at all possible and I support that side of the argument. Balance is needed because we couldn't stop the planet from colling through any of our efforts and we humans may never be ab;le to stop it from warming if it wants as it continuously go through cycles of cooling and warming and people, places and things in between just hace to live with it and watch earth do what it do.

Turning trash into money is an endless bucket of money just as long as the endless buckets of trash. And it is responsible, guilt-tfree profits in terms of effect on the environment, community in the way of wages anf job not to mention fresher air and cleaner skies.

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I'm not sure trucking poor soil in and good soil out would be feasible. Seems like an awful lot of energy would need to be produced for the movement of such a heavy raw material/product. Is there a market for arable soil? I make my own on-site thanks to my garden and animals. Quality soil I've bought did not need to be manufactured as it was just shoveled into a truck and brought to my house.

Depending on what you are growing you may be converting sequestered CO2 (coal) for CO2 that will shortly be in the atmosphere.

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Carbon capture, and other clean coal schemes, are pretty much backed only by fossil fuel industry groups, as a sort of greenwashing.  And none deal with the dirty and energy intensive aspects of the mining process to obtain the coal (which is why the industry has so rapidly switched focus to NG).   Here's some background on the myths surrounding carbon capture, which speak to the OP idea as well:

The soil infusion idea has been already debunked here, and elsewhere, but the OP seems unresponsive to this.  Hmm.

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Just build lots of clean energy and let the coal plants close; there is nothing so good about coal power plants that we should go out of our way to preserve their viability. Quite the opposite - like so much is wrong about them that we should be going out of our way to get rid of them. We have more options now.

The scale of greenhouse construction required would be staggering and coal plant operators are mostly struggling to remain economically viable and taxpayers are not going to support it... This taxpayer sure won't.

I think your idea won't work -

The exhaust gases won't make fertile soils - more likely they would contaminate soils or require treatment first, to be benign, without any specific benefits.

Greenhouse plants can't take enough CO2 out of air to be effective as Carbon Capture; plants can't take out that much.

The CO2 that greenhouse plants take in becomes CO2 again through decomposition; it doesn't remove CO2 from the carbon cycle.

There is just too much CO2 - we now make more CO2 than all other waste combined, several times over. There isn't anything we make more of besides things like sand and gravel that we don't actually make. Stopping doing the things that make CO2 waste - making energy by other means - is always going to be a better option.

12 minutes ago, TheVat said:

Carbon capture, and other clean coal schemes, are pretty much backed only by fossil fuel industry groups, as a sort of greenwashing.

Agree 100%.

The gas and oil industry is offering to do CCS for us IF taxpayer funding is provided to them to do it - so kind of them - but not at levels that would make a difference (apart from sounding 'green') and NEVER out of their revenues, not even revenues at the hyper profit levels currently enjoyed.

They like Carbon Capture when they can pump the CO2 down oil wells to force more oil out of nearby wells - the single biggest use. They like it when they can take CO2 out of low quality natural gas they otherwise could not use, to make it more saleable (eg Australia's Gorgon Gas project, the single largest CCS project). They like it best when they get taxpayer funding to do it - and must think it hilarious (in private) when they get emissions reduction funding for activities that increase overall production of fossil fuels, that they know can't ever work at large scale to eliminate emissions. But I am not laughing.

For CCS to be able to allow unrestricted use of fossil fuels without emissions it has to become the single largest industry in the world - but without any intrinsic way to be profitable. The largest industry ever, because we make more CO2 than anything else barring things like gravel that we don't actually make; for each ton of fuel burned there is 2 to 3 tons of CO2 - and it should be more than that, but for incomplete, inefficient burning. Any capture methods that combine CO2 with other materials, including plants, has to be that much larger again.

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There is the problem of radioactive isotopes being released into the flue glasses. I have read that over time a coal fired plant releases significant amounts of uranium and thorium into the air.  If you are flowing flue gas through a greenhouse would it not result radioactive contamination over time?

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15 hours ago, Philandes said:

But, the breakdown of raw elements into the dirt, with water and carbon (along with other chemicals) being pupmed under pressure into the churning mix is basic science, whether it will work in the way I am proposing will be up to the expert opinion of a chemist, which is why I signed up to join this forum. I am NOT a chemist. My major two sources of science that I respect the most in the world are two people I follow on YouTube, Neil DeGrasse Tyson great astrophysicist/teacher/public science enthuser and fantastic explainer and Yuri Kovalenok, a brilliant Russian physicist and I believe one of the smartest guys in the word in his ability to attract attention to science for people who aren't scientists or otherwise big science people through turning his physic notes into cool T-shirts and other items.

I was hoping a professional chemist would glance over the idea and vet the idea on the merits presented as to the likelyhood of success.

Just presenting the idea, if not viable in either instance helps juggle the collective brain to think outside the box and find some other variation or go in a compleety different path. However, I would more rather that it work without my seeking a patent myself for the system or claim it as mine. I would like to clean coal. many peole are against it the way satan is against Jesus Christ and they will have no talk or discussion on any clean coal idea.

Well, you've had your answer from the people here. Your idea about making soil fertile by passing CO2 into it is misguided and won't work. Plants do not take in CO2 via their roots but via their leaves. As for "....the  breakdown of raw elements into the dirt, with water and carbon (along with other chemicals) being pupmed under pressure into the churning mix", that does not describe anything coherent enough to comment on.

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On 10/22/2022 at 10:59 AM, studiot said:

Why would you need a greenhouse-like structure ?

Ever heard of photosynthesis?

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Thanks for all the responses; this one reply is to all:

Passing tremendous amounts of co2 as a catalyst into soil in an attempt to aid the processes which would make it arable and useable has not yet been comepletely debunked by a chemist so I am still optimistic that the idea may yet prove to have some validity.

The radioactive elements and other contamination filtered out by the soil may themselves be a tiny bit helpful to the environment if all the dirt did was acted as a filter to make the exhaust cleaner by preventing such contaminants from becoming airborne in a city near you. However, that would also open up the problem of what to do with the radioactive dirt.
Converting such dirt into construction materials such as bricks, or other end product, may then be an option.
But, since these elements are being released into the air anyway right now, thinking about controlling the contaminants in another way is worth the calories burnt in thought.

Chemists at Rice University have found a way to remove co2 with a material made from pyrolysed waste plastic which holds 18% of it's own weight in co2 at room temperature. The cost of capturing carbon dioxide from a point source with this method is estimated at $21 per tonne,$60 to \$140 cheaper than traditional methods.

The carbon seqestration via tree farms specializing in the fastest growth species is meant to keep the co2 locked up for decades in the form of useable board feet. Worrying about the co2 being released during decomposition, I believe is a moot point, for a product meant for long term usage on the scale of a decade or more.

Reducing the need to cut down old growth forests and leaving more standing trees to absorb carbon from the atmosphere being a major objective, if the farms produced timber profitably using PARTIAL co2 sequestration, and reduced by percentage points the felling of old growth trees in forests, it would serve two fantastic goals of DECREASE co2 released into the atmosphere, INCREASE co2 being taken out of the atmosphere.

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2 hours ago, Philandes said:

Passing tremendous amounts of co2 as a catalyst into soil in an attempt to aid the processes which would make it arable and useable has not yet been comepletely debunked by a chemist so I am still optimistic that the idea may yet prove to have some validity.

All you have done is repeat your early claim more strongly without any support whatsoever.

On 10/22/2022 at 3:32 AM, Philandes said:

Is it possible for a coal plant to pipe some of it's exhaust into a greenhouse-like structure filled with worthless mineral deficient dirt and infuse it with carbon to the point it turns into valuable soil capable of growing food with?

So I will make it eay for you.  The waste material from coal burning is called PFA (pulverised fuel ash) or fly ash.

Far from being worthless it is a useful industrial material in its own right as it is pozzolanic.

On 10/22/2022 at 6:26 PM, studiot said:

If you injected carbon dioxide into any type of earth material, what chemistry would be involved to keep it there ?

Why would it react at all rather than just dissipate ?

To make it easy here is a breakdown of the minerals in PFA

The reaction of calcium oxide and carbon dioxide.

This will lock up some carbon dioxide, but will not make any progress towards turning the waste into arable soil.

Edited by studiot
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• 2 months later...

very good post

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