Prof. Renata Krzyzynska
Current energy problems related to rapid changes in the energy mix in Europe – environmental aspects
Renata Krzyzynska is an Associate Professor at the Department of Air Conditioning, Heating, Gas Supply, and Air Protection at Faculty of Environmental Engineering, Wroclaw University of Technology. Currently serves as Vice Dean for Internationalisation and Cooperation with Industry of Doctoral School at Wrocław University of Science and Terchnology. She earned Ph.D. (2006) from Mechanical and Power Engineering Faculty and Doctor Habilitatus in Technical Sciences (2013) from Faculty of Environmental Engineering, Wroclaw University of Science and Technology. Before joining Wroclaw University of Technology (at 2009), she was a postdoctoral research fellow (2007-2009) and research visitor (2010-2011) in a research center of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory (NRMRL) in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA. She took part also in prestigious program ‘Top 500 Innovators’ at Stanford University, California, USA (2013). Her main areas of research activities are related to the sector of energy; modern technologies and processes of flue gas treatment of various origins, i.e., flue gases from coal boilers, biogas, pyrolysis and others; conventional and alternative energy; chemical and process engineering; alternative fuels. Head of the ‘Industrial Gas Purification Process and Thermal Waste Treatment Laboratory’. Research is carried out on a laboratory, pilot and full-industrial scale.
In the last decade, exhausting natural resources, climate change, increased demand for energy and increased ecological awareness have resulted in a rapid development of renewable energy sources and increasing the emphasis on energy efficiency in all processes and technologies. The circular economy, with respect to energy, was steeply upward on the development curve. Unfortunately, this positive trend related to decarbonization was disrupted by the war in Ukraine and the embargo on Russian raw material, as a result of which the energy mix of many countries had to be rapidly and significantly changed. Faced with the lack of fuel, the old power plants are being started up by the Germans, Austrians, Dutch and Romanians. It turned out that in the face of the lack of electricity, the issues of the global climate had to be postponed to a later date. Poland is in a more difficult situation. It is one of the most coal-dependent countries in the world and burns the most of it in Europe – more than 80% of energy comes from coal.
This means a sharp increase in raw material prices and even greater extraction, import and consumption.
To illustrate the scale, in 2021, 42 million tons of thermal coal were extracted in Poland, and 57 million tons were burned. According to the data of the Central Statistical Office, the production of coal in Poland increased in May by as much as 9.9% year-on-year. Of this, hard coal was extracted from the ground 4503 thous. tonnes, ie 2% more year-on-year, and lignite 4640 thous. tonnes, i.e. as much as 18.8% more year-on year.
What’s more, in the face of the threat, the voices of ecologists died down and social acceptance for dirty conventional energy returned.
Thus, all problems related to large-scale coal mining and combustion returned with increased strength. Climate change, emission of pollutants, and especially mercury emissions from coal combustion processes, was and still is one of the most serious problems of conventional energy in the last decade.
Additionally, the mercury problem was strongly highlighted during the actual ecological disaster on the Odra River (August 2022). The lack of understanding of mercury-related issues, by the public, and even worse by politicians and many scientists, has caused a lot of conflicts and conspiracy theories in Poland, Germany and other countries. All of the above meant that the topic of the present presentation will be mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants and not, as I initially planned, trends in the development of energy technologies. In this presentation, research results on mercury behavior, especially its high emission, in both forms: elemental (Hg0) and oxidized (Hg2+) will be discussed. Research was performed in lignite- fired power plant located in central Europe.