Australian thermal coal best-in-class

Bundaberg coal

Australian thermal coal exports have consistently delivered higher quality product than world-leading coal exporter Indonesia, according to a Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) report.

As carbon emission regulations tighten globally, MCA’s ‘Australian Export Thermal Coal: The Comparative Quality Advantages’ report found the true value of Ausralian coal exports, as the world seeks to decarbonise.

Superior qualities of Australian coal, as reported by the MCA, included its specific energy levels (SE), measuring the amount of energy content per weight of coal burnt.

“The report notes the higher specific energy (SE) of Australian coal at 25 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg) compared to Indonesian coal at 19.4MJ/kg…enabling less coal to be burnt per kilowatt hour of power station output and lower levels of CO2 emissions than from lower-quality coals,” the report stated.

Australia and the United States were tied for the highest quality coal, by this measure, closely followed by Columbia and South Africa. However, these three competitors only rank fourth, fifth and sixth globally in total coal exports.

Indonesia – the world’s largest exporter of coal at 390 million tonnes per year – was rated ‘inferior’ in a majority of the coal quality ratings, while Australian coal was rated ‘satisfactory for general boiler performance’ in all categories but ash content.

The MCA acknowledged the balance required into the future between emissions reductions and keeping people employed through the coal industry.

“These quality features are important in sustaining demand for Australian thermal coal while supporting jobs and investment – especially in regional New South Wales and Queensland – and better environmental and emissions outcomes for end users,” the MCA stated.

This will become increasingly important over the coming decade, as a report from Fitch Solutions said Australia and Indonesia are expected to continue leading in global coal exports.

“Coal will remain the dominant source of power for most of Southeast Asia and Australia in the coming decade at least, which will support the mining of coal and coal trade in the region,” Fitch stated.

“Nevertheless, stricter environmental standards in Asia will continue to hurt coal miners by increasing compliance costs and delaying project development.”

The MCA report concluded with a discussion on technologies to reduce emissions, which it said would be imperative to reach the emissions reduction goals of the Paris Agreement.

“Investment in reducing emissions from the use of thermal coal in Australia includes an agreement between Glencore and China Huaneng to use CO2 capture technology at the Millmerran coal-fired power station in Queensland – a project supported by Low Emission Technology Australia and the Australian coal industry,” the MCA stated.

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