Funding boost for clean coal project

A NEWCASTLE project aiming to use CSIRO’s ultra clean coal technology for commercial power generation has received a significant funding boost from the Federal Government.

Richard Roberts

White Industries Australia, CSIRO’s commercial partner in the venture, has received a repayable grant from the Federal Government. It has already received an R&D Start Grant.

Total government support for the current $15 million development project now totals $13.5 million. White is developing the technology with CSIRO Energy Technology. The two have already spent $20 million on development of the technology.

“Ultra clean coal is coal from which the normally occurring ash has been removed by chemical cleaning,” said CSIRO Energy Technology group manager, Keith Clark.

“In a full-scale plant the chemicals and minerals from the processing operation will be regenerated and re-used in other industries.”

CSIRO believes the UCC technology has the potential to generate power with up to 10% less greenhouse emissions. UCC itself is seen as a cost-effective substitute for natural gas and heavy fuel oil for power generation, and it has also been tested with positive results as a clean carbon source for use as anode material for aluminium production.

“Its greatest economic potential arises when it is directly fired into a gas turbine power station with combined cycle,” CSIRO says. “UCC has the potential to leapfrog the development of other advanced clean coal technologies.”

Federal Minister for Science, Industry and Resources Senator Nick Minchin said the development was exciting news for Australia’s largest commodity export industry and for the economy of the Newcastle region.

“It is widely accepted that with ample coal reserves to last for the next 250 years, and strong demand from an Asian region heavily dependent on coal as a source of power, heating and cooking, coal use for power generation is likely to continue,” Minchin said.

“As a result, the government and the industry have a responsibility to foster revolutionary projects like this that simultaneously support the industry and significantly improve the environmental performance of coal.

“The use of UCC with combined cycle combustion turbines can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 24% per unit of electricity compared with conventional coal power stations. Over the whole UCC life cycle, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by 10%.”

As well as creating 20-25 jobs immediately, Minchin said the project gave Newcastle an opportunity to become involved at the ground level of what had the potential to be an internationally significant technology.

The minister last month said Australia’s reputation as a world leader in the fight against greenhouse gases had also been enhanced by the independent verification of efforts by 35 local companies to reduce greenhouse gases as part of the Commonwealth’s Greenhouse Gas Challenge program.

“This is the first time in the world that companies have agreed to an independent assessment of a national program to cut greenhouse gases,” Minchin said.

“These firms have given outstanding credibility to this program and to Australia’s reputation as a world leader in this field.”

Some of Australia’s top companies are taking part in the program, among them fuel companies Shell, BP and Caltex, miners BHP, Pasminco and WMC, and electricity generators Macquarie Generation and Delta Electricity. A panel of verification experts drawn from some of Australia’s top engineering, environmental and accounting firms ran the checking process.