The Anonymous Widower

Lützerath: German Coal Mine Stand Off Amid Ukraine War Energy Crunch

The title of this post, is the same as that on this article on the BBC.

This is the sub-heading.

From her tiny wooden treehouse, which sways precariously in the winter wind, a young woman watches an enormous mechanical digger tear into the earth below, its jaws edging ever closer to the village which she’s determined to save.

And these two paragraphs outline the protest.

Lützerath, in western Germany, is on the verge – literally – of being swallowed up by the massive coal mine on its doorstep.

Around 200 climate change activists, who are now all that stand in the way of the diggers expanding the Garzweiler opencast mine, have been warned that if they don’t leave by Tuesday they’ll be forcibly evicted.

But this is not about coal or bituminous coal, as we know it in the UK, this mine will produce lignite or brown coal.

Read both Wikipedia entries linked to the previous sentence and you find some choice phrases.

For bituminous coal.

  • Within the coal mining industry, this type of coal is known for releasing the largest amounts of firedamp, a dangerous mixture of gases that can cause underground explosions.
  • Extraction of bituminous coal demands the highest safety procedures involving attentive gas monitoring, good ventilation and vigilant site management.
  • The leading producer is China, with India and the United States a distant second and third.

For lignite.

  • It has a carbon content around 25–35%. and is considered the lowest rank of coal due to its relatively low heat content.
  • When removed from the ground, it contains a very high amount of moisture which partially explains its low carbon content.
  • The combustion of lignite produces less heat for the amount of carbon dioxide and sulfur released than other ranks of coal. As a result, environmental advocates have characterized lignite as the most harmful coal to human health.
  • Depending on the source, various toxic heavy metals, including naturally occurring radioactive materials may be present in lignite which are left over in the coal fly ash produced from its combustion, further increasing health risks.
  • Lignite’s high moisture content and susceptibility to spontaneous combustion can cause problems in transportation and storage.

I don’t think, that we’ve ever burned lignite in the UK for electricity, as it is just too filthy.

This map shows the mine.

Note.

  1. The autobahn at the West of the map, is a six-land highway, so gives an idea of the scale.
  2. The village of Lützerath is towards the bottom of the map in the middle.
  3. What has been left after the mining, is going to take a lot of restoration.

It almost appears that some of the scenes of devastation, we are seeing in the Ukraine are also happening in Germany due to the frantic search for energy.

A 1960s-Educated Engineer’s Attitude To Coal

I was one of about four-hundred engineers in my year at Liverpool University in the 1960s.

  • Quite a few of those engineers were from coal-mining areas and some were children of miners.
  • I remember the graduate recruitment fair at the University in 1968, where the representative from the National Coal Board sat there alone, as if he’d got the 1960s version of Covid-19.
  • Some went and talked to him, as they felt sorry for him.
  • As far as I know, not one of us, went to work for the National Coal Board.

Engineers and other graduates of the 1960s, didn’t feel that coal was the future.

Had Aberfan and the other pit disasters of the era killed coal as a career, amongst my generation of the UK population?

What Should The Germans Do?

It is my view that whatever the Germans do, burning brown coal, should not be on the list. It’s just too polluting.

This article on euronews is entitled Germany And Poland Have A Dirty Big Secret – An Addiction To Brown Coal.

A few years ago, I was in Katowice on Poland and I have never seen such pollution in Europe, since the smogs of the 1950s.

The euronews article says this.

In eastern Germany some members of a little-known group claim they are being ethnically cleansed, not by militia groups, but by the coal mining industry.

Bulldozers have so far destroyed over 130 Sorb villages to make way for the mining of Europe’s dirtiest kind of fossil fuel – brown coal, or lignite as it is also known.

Brown coal mines are open cast and devour vast tracts of land. As well as whole villages farming and wildlife are destroyed.

The Penk family live in the village of Rohne. They feel their whole culture is also being destroyed.

Note that the Sorbs have a Wikipedia entry, which says there are 60,000 Sorbs in Germany.

One thing the Germans are doing is investing in the UK renewable energy industry.

  • RWE own or part-own over 7 GW of offshore wind farms in the UK, some of which are under development.
  • enBW and BP are developing 3 GW of offshore wind farms in the UK.
  • Over twenty offshore wind farms use Siemens Gamesa turbines.
  • The NeuConnect interconnector is being built between the Isle of Grain and Wilhelmshaven.

Would it not be better for the physical and mental health of German citizens, if they abandoned their dirty love of brown coal and spent the money in the North Sea?

January 10, 2023 - Posted by | Energy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. Frankly I think it’s crazy that Germany is so dependant on coal as a means of generating electricity and has decided to rid itself of nuclear energy. Having said that I can see little value in the Germans expecting of gaining much more by giving up coal to invest in their Exclusive Economic Zone. Simply the portion of their EEZ in the North Sea is so small (about 22000 sq Kms). Taken as a whole their EEZ, including the 30% that sits in the Baltic, ranks as 114th by area in the world. The UK’s EEZ ranks as 5th.

    Comment by fammorris | January 10, 2023 | Reply

  2. If you look at the UK’s nuclear industry, all or most of it will have gone, by 2030, with the exception of Sizewell B and HPC. If the German nuclear stations were in a similar state to ours, then surely a natural end-date could have been 2028 or 2030, which could probably have been late enough to build other renewable sources.

    I must admit, that unlike most of Europe, the Germans don’t seem to be able to plan big projects well. Look at Berlin’s new airport.

    As the Germans have had a strong green movement since the 1960s and they certainly don’t seem to have progressed as far as some other countries have done, I suspect that there is something wrong with their green politicians.

    Comment by AnonW | January 10, 2023 | Reply

  3. Lignite should be ceased as quickly as possible but the Germans are reacting to the situation they find themselves in and giving the coalition is very dependant on the Greens they themselves have gone along with it.

    As an aside NCB were still trying to recruit engineers in early 1980s when i graduated.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | January 10, 2023 | Reply


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