Victorian brown coal may stage a comeback with Toyota taking an interest in converting the resource to hydrogen for fuelling next-generation hybrid cars.
The multi-billion dollar plan is being promoted by Toyota, and will be developed another Japanese giant of industry, Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI).
According to the Australian the Victorian Government appears to support the scheme, having been trying to market the state’s vast brown coal reserves.
Toyota will be ending car manufacturing in Australia in 2017, claiming that it is too expensive to do business here, however it seems that they will be doing business to convert brown coal to hydrogen.
Senior Toyota executive Yoshio Ishizara said the project has great potential if the federal and state governments are serious about it, and the carbon capture storage project CarbonNet, trialled in the Gippsland, is a success.
“There is lots of coal, open-cut coal, but it produces lots of CO2,” he said.
“So at the moment it is a kind of white elephant.
However, with this kind of new technology it could be a good benefit for Australia, particularly the state of Victoria.
“The technology is there to capture carbon, put it into the earth and to say goodbye to the CO2.”
Kawasaki Heavy Industries said it has plans to construct a fleet of hydrogen tankers with the first test vessel to be launched in 2017, for taking hydrogen from Australia.
“Victorian coal is regarded as one of the best potential sources of hydrogen,’’ a Kawasaki spokesman said.
“The plan is still in its early stages, with further research, development and analysis in progress.
“KHI is willing to contribute to building the infrastructure required to enable a new hydrogen-based society as a supplier of its own hi-tech-based products.”
The plan would require a new coal gasification plant and export terminal, which would generate construction and production jobs in the region.
Victorian deputy premier Peter Ryan visited Kawasaki’s trial coal-to-hydrogen plant in Osaka last year.
A spokesman for Ryan said “This exciting project is one of many which demonstrate the value of Latrobe Valley coal to not only support the industries of tomorrow, but to create new jobs.”
The new hybrid cars are unlikely to be exported to Australia, but will be built for the "green" markets of Japan and the US.