Itochu signs on with Exergen

JAPANESE trading house Itochu has joined the likes of India’s Tata Power and Australia’s Thiess and Sedgman by investing in Victorian coal technology company Exergen.

Blair Price

While the funding level was not revealed, Exergen chief executive officer Dr Jack Hamilton told International Longwall News Itochu, Tata and Thiess each had about 5% in Exergen, with Sedgman having a slightly lower holding.

Exergen has developed continuous hydrothermal dewatering (CHTD) technology, which has had successful trials at a pilot facility in Beaconsfield, Tasmania.

Unlisted Exergen has also formed a project company, LV-NG – Latrobe Valley Next Generation – which is aiming to build a $A1 billion, 12 million tonne per annum coal processing plant in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley to be completed in 2014.

According to the company, the core of its technology is a vertical autoclave that uses gravitational head pressure and a small amount of energy to transform the molecular structure of brown coal, removing up to 80% of its moisture content.

As brown coal is up to 70% water by mass, Exergen said its CHTD process could exert 100 atmospheres of pressure and 300C of temperature on brown coal slurry for a period of a few minutes.

“We’ve looked carefully at the Exergen CHTD technology and see the potential for enormous energy saving and emissions reduction through the introduction of this fuel to the coal-fired power industry,” Itochu coal general manager Ko Kawaguchi said.

“The addition of Itochu Corporation to the Exergen team will ensure that this Australian technology will have application in some of the most significant energy markets in the world,” Hamilton said.

“This is important because, with so many new coal-fired generating assets coming online in China, India and other developing economies, the emissions reductions Exergen CHTD enables will deliver a very positive environmental impact.

“In combination with emerging carbon capture technologies, we see CHTD as a vital step toward making coal-fired energy almost emissions-free.”

Hamilton made his name as Woodside Petroleum’s North West Shelf Venture director and before starting up with Exergen in March was working as Liquid Niugini Gas chief executive, where he headed a $US5-7 billion liquefied natural gas joint venture project in Papua New Guinea.

On his move into clean coal technology, Hamilton has previously told ILN he was looking forward to working with Exergen’s unique technology, which he said could upgrade brown coal from Victoria’s vast reserves to export quality.