Research Developing Brown Coal’s Future

By Dr Phil Gurney, Chief Executive Officer, BCIA

Brown Coal Innovation Australia’s (BCIA) multi-million dollar research program encompasses a portfolio of world-class research and development activity; funded and facilitated by the company to broaden the use of brown coal for a sustainable future.

Last year, BCIA announced $8.3 million in funding for ten world class research and development (R&D) projects that offer enormous potential to significantly reduce emissions, slash carbon capture costs and create new industry and employment opportunities from low emission brown coal utilisation.

Within BCIA’s 2011 R&D innovation portfolio is a study examining options for development of a hydrogen production and export industry from Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, and research that aims to halve carbon emissions from brown coal fired power by significantly increasing the efficiency of a direct injection coal engine.

Our second funding round also supports research trials to determine the merits of using brown coal to improve soil health and plant yields and includes a study of processing methodologies to reduce spontaneous combustion of dried or de-watered brown coal. Both projects offer the potential for significant new domestic and global markets for Australian brown coal.

In addition, BCIA is committed to several projects in emerging technologies, which offer enormous potential to reduce capital and operational costs for large-scale carbon capture plants – arguably the greatest challenge facing commercial deployment of carbon capture. Our 2011 R&D projects are focused on the capture of CO2 from brown coal at a lower energy and cost penalty.

One such project aims to achieve significant reductions in cost – up to $200 million for a 550-megawatt plant – of retrofitted post-combustion emissions capture from brown coal-fired power. The research objective is to integrate the removal of sulphur (SO2) and carbon (CO2) in a single

column, with a single liquid absorbent, thereby eliminating the requirement for a separate flue gas desulphurisation unit.

Other BCIA R&D projects in the field of carbon capture include the first known study of chemical looping combustion and gasification of Australian brown coal as an emerging alternate technology, and research focused on determining the best performing, most cost-effective solvent absorbent technologies for the capture of CO2 emissions from brown coal.

BCIA’s 2011 research program is also supporting an international collaboration to enable gasification for brown coal-fired power generation, thereby reducing CO2 emissions and lowering generation costs. In addition, we are funding a literature review looking at next generation high-efficiency, low-cost, integrated drying and gasification systems for the production of power and high-value products from brown coal.