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What’s News at BCIA?

BCIA invests in people and technologies in order to expand the environmentally responsible use of Australia’s brown coal resources.

Our company undertakes a range of activities including investing in research and development (R&D) projects, providing funding for Research Fellows and PhD students and building awareness of the skills required for future projects.

We have also established linkages and networks with organisations with similar goals, for example Japan’s JCOAL and the IEA Clean Coal Centre, and our communications activities to build public awareness of the potential future uses of Australian brown coal.

One way that BCIA seeks to strengthen Australia’s brown coal R&D activities is to promote national and international collaboration. Australia is a very innovative country and our researchers have a key role to play in tackling global challenges; such as CO2 emissions. However as our country is only a small proportion of the world population, we need to both learn from, and contribute to, the global research effort.

In recent months, BCIA CEO Dr Phil Gurney has visited the USA, China and Japan, to strengthen research ties and build new collaborative programs. One possible outcome from Dr Gurney’s recent visit to China could be a new international conference on low-rank coal technologies – a forum to build collaboration and share ideas.

Another goal of BCIA’s mission is to promote awareness of the environmentally responsible use of brown coal. BCIA was a founding sponsor and participated in the recent National CCS Conference held in Perth from 21 to 23 October; the major event for Australia’s National CCS Week.

In addition, BCIA was a major sponsor of the Australian Institute of Energy (AIE) Postgraduate Student Energy Awards held in conjunction with the All-Energy Conference in Melbourne on 10 and 11 October.


In addition to its use for power production, Victorian brown coal also has great potential as a raw material for making a wide range of value-added products.

One way to unlock this potential is via the process of gasification, which involves heating the coal in the presence of steam to produce a synthesis gas (ie. ‘syngas’) that can be cleaned and transformed into products such as fuels, hydrogen, industrial chemicals and fertilisers.

HRL Technology has recently completed an initial investigation into the potential for more efficient power generation and creation of new products through gasification of brown coal, with funding support from both BCIA and ANLEC R&D.

The aim of the project was to understand how the gasification and syngas processing steps must be tailored to meet the needs of each opportunity and to establish the requirements of a pilot facility to support future commercial developments.

The project was led by BCIA Research Fellow, Prof Klaus Hein, who facilitated new linkages between HRL Technology and key centres of gasification research overseas. This created an opportunity for HRL engineers to gain first-hand exposure to world’s best practice in the design and operation of pilot-scale gasifiers.

In addition, desktop research and literature reviews were undertaken to establish the current state of the art in coal gasification.

Victorian brown coal contains very low levels of impurities, making it ideal for gasification. It was found that oxy-blown gasification of Victorian brown coal, particularly using HRL’s IDGCC technology, has great potential for producing a wide range of value-added fuels and industrial chemicals in the Latrobe Valley.

Further development of this potential will require more work to identify the most promising product opportunities and select the necessary syngas processing steps. Inevitably, a pilot-scale gasification facility will have to be constructed as a necessary step toward commercial production.

BCIA funded this project to support development of the skills needed to unlock the potential of Victoria’s brown coal resource. HRL has subsequently entered into collaborative agreements with two overseas companies to develop opportunities relating to gasification of brown coal.

For more BCIA news, go to the next page of this e-newsletter.

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