Reliable and affordable energy supplies are essential for fueling economic growth, job creation, and prosperity. For countries like the United States and Poland, which rely on coal and other fossil fuels to meet a large portion of their energy needs, balancing economic demands with environmental concerns has proven to be a challenge. How can countries harness their natural resources while protecting their environment and the climate?
That’s a question that Dr. Bill Linak, a research scientist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory, is exploring during his six-week stay in Poland as an Embassy Science Fellow. There, he is sharing his knowledge and research about clean coal technologies with his Polish colleagues through site visits, seminars, and lectures, with the goal of establishing lasting collaborative research projects after he returns home.
“Polish academia has a long history in combustion science,” he said. “I hope to foster collaborative research with some of these scientists.”
He is focused on carbon capture and sequestration technologies, which catch carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and prevent them from escaping into the atmosphere. These technologies can help mitigate coal’s harmful impacts on the environment.
Since arriving in Poland, Dr. Linak has engaged with about 25 different groups of people in the Polish government, academia, and industry. The meetings are an opportunity for Dr. Linak and the groups to discuss their interests and priorities in the field, exchange best practices, and explore opportunities for future collaboration with his projects at EPA. He is connecting researchers in Poland with colleagues at EPA and U.S. universities that work on topics unrelated to his area of expertise. He also hopes to become more involved with a group of well-coordinated Polish research institutes that are focused on oxy-fuel combustion, the clean coal area that interest him most.
But it’s not just clean coal -- Dr. Linak is also learning a lot about coal mining and gasification. Early in June, he visited a mine near Katowice, Poland, where he saw miners removing coal from a 200m coal seam 700 meters below ground. “It was a fantastic experience,” he said. “I’ve burned coal for almost 40 years, but I have never seen it mined before. The tour gave me new respect for the miners who work in very challenging conditions.”
Dr. Linak has also found that the use of biofuels and coal-biofuel co-firing is well developed in Poland. This topic is less mature in the United States, and he is interested in pursuing this type of research at the Environmental Protection Agency when he returns.
“I’m enjoying my stay in Poland,” he said." I visited Warsaw once before during a conference, and the people and culture are wonderful. I’ve been working in air pollution and combustion science for a while, and I’m happy to share what I’ve learned with the Mission there, and learn about the progress of similar research in Poland.”
About the Author: Kira Vuille-Kowing is a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs’ Office of Policy and Public Outreach.