In this episode of Frontiers, Peter Evans asks whether coal can ever be a clean fuel.
At a time when we're increasingly concerned about the effects of carbon dioxide emissions on global climate change, it might seem strange to be thinking seriously about coal as a major energy source.
But coal is the fuel of choice for many nations, developed and developing, not least America and China. It's been estimated that at current levels of usage, global coal reserves will last for more than 150 years. However, if large amounts of coal are be to be burnt, science and technology need to come up with ways of making coal a more efficient, and less polluting, energy source.
To learn more about how a conventional coal-fired power station works, Peter goes to Nottinghamshire to visit the coal-fired power station at Ratcliffe-on-Soar. The power station, run by E.ON UK, burns 812 tonnes of coal an hour, and provides electricity for about two million people.
Peter talks to engineers at E.ON's research facility, Power Technology. They are developing new technologies that will burn coal more efficiently and, at the same time, make it easier to capture and store carbon dioxide. These include coal gasification and oxyfuel combustion.
Peter hears from Professor Brian Smart at Heriot-Watt University. Professor Smart and colleagues have recently completed a Feasibility Study into Underground Coal Gasification under the Firth of Forth.
Peter also talks to Malcolm Wicks, Minister of State for Energy at the Department of Trade and Industry.