|Dr Phil Gurney|
BCIA CEO and Director
|There is a lot going on for|
brown coal at the moment
|In December 2015, Australia signed the Paris Agreement, a global accord that seeks to limit dangerous climate change by reducing emissions of CO₂ into the atmosphere. To meet this commitment, we must change the way we use coal. Those looking to the future of Australia’s brown coal resources have taken this challenge to heart.|
|As you will see in this issue of Perspectives, many of the new coal developments are moving away from traditional power generation towards value-added products from coal. They are also seeking to balance environmental concerns with securing continued economic benefit from this premium resource.|
The 18th March 2016, will be a milestone day for the Latrobe Valley, with the launch of a new carbon capture pilot plant. The Post-Combustion Capture plant is a major Australian-Japanese collaboration bringing together industry and researchers to support long-duration testing of CO₂ absorbents on real flue gas. Successful completion of such research will provide vital data necessary for the scale up of this technology in Australia.
The Latrobe City Council see new uses of coal and new investments in coal developments as one of the key platforms to the future economic development of the region. They are seeking input into the development of their regional economic development strategy. The focus on coal as a driver of economic development is supported by the results of BCIA’s recent Coal to Chemicals member report, which shows that new Coal to Products (CTX) industries can be viable in Australia.
And new coal developments, leading to value-added products, are now proceeding towards commercial deployment. To emphasise this point, we feature an article by Ignite ALDP on their commercial-scale demonstrator plant. This project has secured funding, and has undertaken community consultation and environmental impact studies.
|BCIA’s recent seminar showed that there is significant continued interest in agricultural uses of coal – for example how coal-derived products can improve soil organic carbon levels, which have been depleted by modern farming methods. As an action from this, BCIA has developed a new report on ‘Applications for Brown Coal in Australian Agriculture’, which is now available to BCIA members. This report shows that soil productivity can be improved using coal-derived products. This is a very prospective area, and a summary of this report is provided on page 4.|
Late last year, the Australian motoring press reported the story that Toyota and Kawasaki Heavy Industries were seeking to power a new fleet of cars with hydrogen sourced from gasification of Victorian brown coal. A challenge for many uses of hydrogen is how to effectively store it. BCIA funded student Amandeep Oberoi has been looking into the use of activated carbons from brown coal for this. He updates us on his research on page 8.
Key to supporting any new, environmentally responsible uses of coal will be to ensure that the technology risks associated with building these projects are minimised. This requires a strong local R&D workforce that has a thorough knowledge of Australian coal chemistry and how projects can develop in Australia. The article by Vince Verheyen shows how Federation University is helping to maintain this research base, supporting both carbon capture research and coal industry developments.
These developments show that those who believe “coal is dead” are missing the mark. However, with so much going on, it is easy to forget that continued investment is required to ensure the impetus towards new, environmentally and economically responsible developments of brown coal continues.
It is innovation that will underpin the economic value of brown coal in an emissions constrained future – and it is the research community, working together with industry, who will deliver this. BCIA is continuing to advocate with the owners of Australian brown coal resources for continued support to ensure that funding is available for our ongoing program of activities. We will keep you updated on our progress.