Australians often lament the fact that many of our best ideas go overseas. However, the go-ahead for construction of the world’s first ‘oxyfuel’ power plant at Callide Power Station in central Queensland has reinforced Australia’s lead role in developing breakthrough technology to address global climate change.
The $206 million demonstration plant represented another exciting chapter in the rollout of Australian carbon capture and storage technology development.
Earlier this year the Queensland Government unveiled plans for the ZeroGen project near Rockhampton that will use coal gasification technology with the aim of large-scale commercial electricity production before 2020.
Now, the retrofitting of an existing coal-fired boiler at Callide power station with oxy-firing technology will deliver another internationally significant demonstration of low-emission electricity production by 2010.
Both projects will be integrated with permanent liquid carbon dioxide storage technology using the same types of geological formations that have held our oil and gas supplies for millions of years.
The Victorian Government has also been playing its part in carbon dioxide storage with the recent launch Australia’s first carbon dioxide storage (geosequestration) project in south west Victoria.
The Government provided $6 million for the project, which is conducted by the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) and will involve the injection of 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide deep underground.
The world-class subsurface carbon dioxide monitoring of this project puts Australia at the forefront of research into reducing greenhouse gas emissions and will allow us to clearly demonstrate that carbon storage is possible on an industrial scale.
The Victorian Government would be looking at the results of the Otway Project to confirm that Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) can play a major part in achieving deep cuts to Victorian greenhouse gas emissions by permanently storing carbon dioxide underground.
Victoria has vast brown coal resources and the Otway Project, coupled with technology to allow the capture of carbon emissions from brown coal-fired electricity generation that are currently being developed in Victoria, will ensure these resources can be developed in a clean and sustainable manner.
The success of this project is expected to provide major long-term benefits for the Latrobe Valley, where industry and the surrounding community are closely linked to brown coal electricity generation.
The Latrobe Valley, which has long been Victoria’s power house, is located close to the Gippsland Basin, where depleted gas and oil reservoirs provide a number of potentially suitable locations where the carbon dioxide emissions from power production could be stored using the recent technology.
At the time of writing the Victorian Energy and Resources Minister Peter Batchelor was due to meet high-level delegates from China and Australia to discuss clean energy and in particular clean coal. By forging strong relations with China, it is hoped further projects similar to the Integrated Drying Gasification Combined Cycle project can be developed.
The joint venture planned for the Latrobe Valley, between leading Chinese firm Harbin Power Equipment Company and Victorian energy technology company HRL, will see the development of the world’s largest commercial scale clean coal technology plant.
The Victorian Government has committed $50 million to this project. The Government is also inviting international investment in developing technologies for other high-value uses of brown coal, such producing diesel fuel, ammonia, petrochemicals and hydrogen.
Over a relatively short period, with much of the world’s focus on worrying about climate change, Australia has moved on practical solutions to meet the twin goals of energy security and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Over the next decade, Australia’s black coal industry will contribute around $1 billion to see those goals realised, and with the continuing support of governments, the union movement, the scientific community and leading environmental groups such as WWF, we are starting to see the fruits of that commitment realised.
With global electricity demand forecast to more than double by 2030, coal, gas, uranium and renewable energy in all its forms will be under increasing pressure to deliver higher living standards, especially in developing countries.