[ASC-media] Media release: green savings for brown coal

CRCA Media crcamedia at starclass.com.au
Mon Aug 2 21:26:34 EST 2004

CRCA Media Release 04/29

Tuesday, August 3, 2004


Australian scientists have developed a new way to slash greenhouse emissions from brown coal, smoothing the path for the use of a resource capable of powering southern Australia's industries and homes for years to come.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Clean Power from Lignite (CRC CPL) reports the successful trial of a revolutionary process for drying brown coal which can reduce greenhouse emissions from power generation by a third or more.

The CRC's Mechanical Thermal Expression (MTE) technology removes more than 70 per cent of the water from the brown coals found Victoria and South Australia, resulting in huge greenhouse savings when the dry coal is burnt in a power station.

Brown coal - or lignite - may contain up to two thirds water, producing low energy efficiency, high CO2 emissions and high capital costs in power generation. Offsetting this, reserves are plentiful and estimated to last another 500 years.

MTE dries the coal by a process of mild heating and squeezing, reducing it to a state far more suitable as a feed for efficient power generation.

"Using our technology to dry coal for a new "state of the art" power station, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by more than 30 per cent compared to today's power stations," says CRC CPL Chief Executive, Dr Peter Jackson.

"Even bigger reductions - over 40 per cent - will be achieved if the dry coal is fed to the next generation of integrated coal gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plants." 

Drying brown coal in this way has the potential to far exceed the greenhouse gas savings from the Federal Government's Mandated Renewable Energy Target Scheme (MRET), saving 9 million tonnes of CO2 a year if applied to remove half of the lignite water in existing power stations, against the MRET target of 6.5 million tonnes, he adds.

Dr Jackson says that while renewables and natural gas will play an increasing role in the national energy mix, brown coal will need to shoulder much of the energy load, especially as Bass Strait gas production declines and modern coal-fired power stations come on line over the next 8-10 years.

CRC researchers initially demonstrated the Mechanical Thermal Expression process on a laboratory scale plant at Monash University, and subsequently successfully scaled up the process to 1 tonne per hour pilot scale.

They are now working on a design for a continuous-feed pilot plant capable of drying 15 tonnes of coal per hour, as a test-bed for industrial application of the technology and as a forerunner to a commercial scale demonstration plant.

The research has also identified potential uses for the large amounts of water removed from the coal by the MTE process. The MTE product water could readily replace some of the lower quality water requirements in a power station - such as cooling water make-up and ash pond water - thus reducing the consumption of fresh water.

The CRC plans to extend trials to include overseas lignites and low-rank coals, with a view to developing export markets for its patented MTE technology.  

The research addresses two of Australia's four National Research Priorities - An Environmentally Sustainable Australia and Frontier Technologies for Transforming Industry.

More information:
Dr Peter Jackson, CEO, CRC for Clean Power from Lignite, 03 8542 0800
e-mail: peter.jackson at cleanpower.com.au 
website: www.cleanpower.com.au

Prof. Julian Cribb, CRCA media, 0418 639 245

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