The news came just as Western Australia’s Mines Minister Bill Marmion hosted senior Chinese officials at the state’s South West Hub CCS project sites in the Harvey and Waroona shires where his department is overseeing the drilling of three new wells for the project.
The South West Hub project is jointly funded by the state and Australian governments.
“A vital concern to both countries is the creation and use of low emission technology, to cut waste and increase the amount of energy gained from each tonne of coal,” Marmion said.
“Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a developing technology that offers very good prospects of emissions reduction in the future.”
The Chinese delegation is in WA for the 7th Australia-China Bilateral Dialogue on Resource and Energy Cooperation, as well as meetings on carbon reduction technology.
Marmion said Chevron’s Gorgon project at Barrow Island was the world's largest carbon sequestration project, storing up to 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year and was set to reduce the project’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 40%.
China and Australia are collaborating on two carbon Post Combustion Capture projects in China worth $14.4 million.
Macfarlane said the federal funding was for the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC), which was globally recognised for its work on CCS at its Otway geological storage test facility.
“The grant ensures that this critical research continues for five more years and we expect to see important technological improvements to CCS modelling, monitoring and verification as a result,” Macfarlane said.
“The end goal is the wide scale deployment of an effective system for capturing carbon dioxide and storing it safely underground. Given Australia’s reliance on coal-fired electricity and our abundance of fossil fuels, funding this scientific research into CCS is a sensible investment in the nation’s future.”
Welcoming the funding announcement, CO2CRC’s new CEO Tania Constable commended the Australian government for supporting CCS as an essential component in a portfolio of low- and zero-carbon emissions technologies required to tackle climate change.
“The wide-scale deployment of CCS is critical to reduce carbon emissions as quickly and cost effectively as possible. This funding will allow CO2CRC to embark on a new program of research to improve CCS technologies," Constable said.
“In particular, the intention is to lower the costs of developing and monitoring carbon dioxide storage sites, enhance regulatory capability and build community confidence in geological storage of CO2 as a safe, permanent option for cutting emissions from fossil fuels."
Constable said a major focus of CO2CRC’s research will be on high resolution monitoring and verification of stored carbon dioxide but the centre will also continue its research into carbon dioxide capture technologies.
“The high concentration of carbon dioxidce at the CO2CRC Otway site makes it ideal for accelerated exposure testing of our capture technologies. As oil and gas producers move to higher concentration fields, such testing becomes more representative of conditions likely to be encountered in real operations,” Constable said.
The government is currently finalising its 2015 Energy White Paper, which will deliver on economy-wide reforms.
"Encouraging innovation like this $25 million in new technology funding will not only help to cut emissions but also drive efficiencies and productivity, which will help to put downward pressure on electricity prices. Australia has the potential to be an energy and resources superpower but it is important to assure investors that Australia is ‘open for business’ and to have clear and predictable policy settings," Macfarlane said.
He added that the government has a technology neutral approach to energy policy with a wide range of energy sources competing on a level playing field, allowing Australia to take advantage of new technologies that can contribute to the reliable, sustainable and affordable supply of energy.