Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 18, pp 18484–18492 | Cite as

A streamlined life cycle assessment of a coal-fired power plant: the South African case study

  • Israel Dunmade
  • Nkosinathi Madushele
  • Paul A. AdedejiEmail author
  • Esther T. Akinlabi
Research Article


Non-renewable energy sources have detrimental environmental effects, which directly and indirectly affect the biosphere as environmental deposits from their use for energy generation exceed a threshold. This study performs a streamlined life cycle assessment (LCA) of a coal-fired plant in South Africa. The cradle-to-grave LCA focuses on the coal cycle to determine hotspots with high environmental impacts in the process. Four impact categories were considered in this study: global warming potential, photochemical ozone creation potential, eutrophication potential, and acidification potential. Coal transportation, coal pulverization, water use, and ash management were identified as hotspots in the coal cycle. The coal process has 95% potential for global warming, 4% potential for eutrophication, 1% potential for acidification, and a negligible percentage for photochemical ozone creation. Susceptibility to climate change, eutrophication, acid rain, soil degradation, and water contamination among others are major concerns of the coal cycle. Outsourcing coal from nearby mines with train as medium of transportation reduces environmental impact. Similarly, the use of mitigation technologies like flue gas desulphurization, carbon capture storage, or selective catalytic reduction will reduce the concentration of the flue gas emitted. Ultimately, substituting the coal process with renewable energy sources will ensure environmental sustainability in South Africa. This study will serve as a good resource for further studies on LCA of coal power plants not only in other African countries but in other developing countries with similar situation.


Coal cycle Coal-fired power plant Environmental sustainability Life cycle assessment South Africa 



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Mount Royal University CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Department of Mechanical Engineering ScienceUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

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