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Comparative assessment of water use and environmental implications of coal slurry pipelines

TitleComparative assessment of water use and environmental implications of coal slurry pipelines
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1978
AuthorsPalmer RN, James IC, Hirsch RM
JournalHydrological Science Bulletin
Start Page455
Date Published08/1978

One of the most talked about issues with respect to development, transportation, and conversion of the energy resources of the Western United States is the water requirement and its consequent impacts upon the ambience of that part of the country. In conjunction with other studies conducted by the US Geological Survey of water use in the conversion and transportation of the West's coal, an analysis of water use and environmental implications of coal slurry pipeline transport is presented.

Simulations of a hypothetical slurry pipeline of 1000 mile length transporting 12.5 million tons per year indicate that pipeline costs and energy requirements are quite sensitive to the coal-to-water ratio. For realistic water prices, the optimal ratio will not vary far from the 50/50 ratio by weight. In comparison to other methods of energy conversion and transport, coal slurry pipelines utilize about a third of the amount of water required for coal gasification, and about a fifth of the amount required for onsite electrical generation.

An analysis of net energy output from operating alternative energy transportation systems for the assumed conditions indicates that both slurry pipeline and rail shipment require approximately 4.5 per cent of the potential electrical energy output of the coal transported and high-voltage, direct-current transportation requires approximately 6.5 per cent. The environmental impacts of the different transport options are so substantially different that a common basis for comparison does not exist.