|Dr Phil Gurney|
BCIA Chief Executive Officer
|Victoria, located in Australia’s south, has some of the world’s best brown coal. It is extremely low in mineral impurities and sulphur, and its low mining cost means that it is used to generate around 90% of the electricity used in the State, as well as power for export to Australia’s northern states. Projects are also progressing for conversion of Victorian brown coals into a range of products such as liquid fuels, hydrogen, fertilisers, and fine chemicals.|
|Today’s uses of brown coal, however, are emissions intensive. If we are to continue to use this resource into the future, far greater effort will need to be made with environmental controls – particularly around CO2 emissions – by increasing efficiency of use and capturing and storing CO2 to prevent it entering the atmosphere.|
To date in Australia, most State policies for reducing CO2 are focussed on increasing the use of renewables, primarily solar and wind, and these certainly have a major role to play in a low emissions future. However, in the short term, the application of greater coal combustion efficiency to reduce emissions can be extremely cost effective. For example, a back of the envelope calculation shows that if it was possible to increase the combustion efficiency of Victoria’s brown coal power stations today by one tenth of one percent (0.1%), you could get a greater reduction in CO2 emissions than by installing $200 million of roof-top solar panels.
Research being undertaken in Australia today shows how, by focussing on combustion processes, new brown coal power stations could be built that increase efficiency not by fractions of one percent, but by 30% to 50% (see for example the articles 'High Efficiency Power Generation from Victorian Brown Coal at CSIRO' and 'MILD Combustion of Pulverised Brown Coal'). Those present at the latest BCIA research symposium also heard about research that could lead to reduced emissions from current power stations through use of advanced on-line flue gas analysis (see article 'Overview from Latest BCIA Research Symposium').
BCIA’s mission is to fund research and skills development to deliver advances in technologies such as this. Only through an ongoing programme of research, development and demonstration of such advanced technologies can we create cost-effective ways to deploy stable, lower emissions power generation, and provide the world with increased options as it pushes towards restricting atmospheric CO2 levels.
|However, investment in such low emissions R&D has all but dried in recent years, and BCIA is finding sourcing the funds it needs for its work increasingly difficult.|
This issue of BCIA’s Perspectives newsletter includes a variety of articles showing how the emissions intensity of brown coal can be reduced. The article by Quanrong Fan ('Dynamic Fuel Injection for Flameless Combustion – A Retrofit Option for Victorian Power Stations?') suggests the potential for retrofitting a novel, free-swinging coal injector, together with the use of MILD combustion to existing power stations. This could theoretically lead to significantly reduced CO2 emissions, at low cost.
Christopher Munnings of CSIRO provides an update on a BCIA-funded project looking to Direct Carbon Fuel Cells. While this is a longer-term option, with further development this offers the potential to reduce brown coal CO2 emissions by 50% comported to today’s power stations.
BCIA supports a range of PhD projects, and this month we showcase two of them – the article by Manabendra Saha provides more information on the application of MILD combustion, while the article by Rahmat Dirgantara shows how by using brown coal fly ash, it may be possible to reduce the CO2 emissions associated with cement manufacture in Australia.
In this issue you will also find articles on BCIA’s most recent research seminar (presentations are available on NEWS AND EVENTS), the ATSE-CERI workshop on Australia and China’s low emissions coal technology developments. I trust that you will enjoy this issue of Perspectives.