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NEWS


SPOTLIGHT ON BCIA
What’s News at BCIA?

The last few months have continued to keep us all busy. After the seminar and the completion of our third competitive funding round in December, the Christmas break was very welcome.

The funding round was an outstanding success. We received 18 applications, involving nearly 40 organisations, including several large multi-national companies and leading national and international research groups.

In the New Year, the focus has switched to finalising the contracts for the new research projects that will be funded. We are also looking forward to the successful completion of our scholarship funding round (details on
page 2).

As always, the company is continuing to work with our members and other brown coal stakeholders to progress the environmentally sustainable uses of brown coal – and securing and providing the funding for these activities. We are looking forward to another eventful year, managing our research investments, commencing new projects, running events, and supporting new brown coal innovations.


SKILLS UPDATE



Further to BCIA’s student workshop held early last year, another full day seminar for early career researchers was held 6 March at Monash University, Caulfield.

This was an opportunity for early career researchers to showcase their research projects to their peers, researchers and industry stakeholders in an informal environment.

A networking event with industry followed the showcase with short presentations from a wide range of industry and research groups on their organisation's activities and future employment prospects in brown coal related areas (article in next
Perspectives edition).

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT



Successful applicants from the 2013 Funding Round were selected by the Board in December 2013, and research contract negotiations are now in progress. Details about the new research portfolio will be announced when contracts are finalised.

The focus of the current Funding Round is on projects that can increase the efficiency of brown coal power generation, reduce CO2 emissions and improve profitability of the local industry. However, BCIA is also seeking to promote new uses for brown coal other than for power generation. There are several projects currently under way at Monash University to investigate innovative new uses for brown coal.

One project, led by Associate Professor Tony Patti, is exploring the potential of brown coal and coal-derived extracts to promote plant growth and improve soil health. A significant finding of this project has been that the ancient lignin structures in brown coal are very effective in binding ammonia. The practical implication is that brown coal and humate products can help to retain N fertiliser nutrients in the soil for longer periods, thus increasing fertiliser use efficiency by reducing losses through leaching and volatilisation to the atmosphere.

The researchers are now investigating a new type of fertiliser inspired by this discovery, comprising a blend of brown coal and chemical Nitrogen (N) fertilisers, for example, urea, MAP and DAP, as well as combinations of brown coal and Phosphorus fertilisers.

To accomplish this, Dr Patti’s team is collaborating with another group at Monash University, led by Associate Professor Andrew Hoadley. BCIA is funding Dr Hoadley’s team to investigate new methods to stabilise brown coal by granulation.

Both projects are also being assisted with technical expertise being contributed by local company, Torreco, and Wisconsin-based FEECO International.

This collaboration has led to the development of several new prototype products that are currently being investigated in greenhouse trials, with a view to fine-tuning the product formulation. This represents an exciting new use for brown coal, with potential to bring benefits to farmers across Australia.

In a completely different area, a project led by Professor Alan Chaffee is seeking to upgrade brown coal for use as coking coal in blast furnaces for iron-making, which is a relatively high-value application. The “holy grail” of this project is a product with high mechanical strength and low reactivity, which has been pursued by a number of research groups over the years.

Recent work at Monash University has shown that a product with high strength and low reactivity, approaching that of conventional coke, can be produced at laboratory scale. The researchers are now seeking to confirm this result using standard industrial quality assurance procedures, to ensure that the project remains on target to meet industry needs.



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




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