Plant to test coal-to-oil technology

Ignite Energy Resources (IER) will demonstrate its coal-to-oil technology, after entering into a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a commercial test plant at TRUenergy's Yallourn mine.

Ignite Energy Resources (IER) will demonstrate its coal-to-oil technology, after entering into a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a commercial test plant at TRUenergy’s Yallourn mine.

The facility will use IER’s proprietary supercritical water technology to transform up to 60,000 t of high moisture content brown coal into 60,000 barrels of high-grade oils and 18,000 t of high-grade dry coal.

IER CEO Dr Len Humphreys told MINING DAILY that the proprietary supercritical water technology can transform low ranked brown coals into high-valued oils and cleaner coal products.

“I guess you could say we mimic or copy nature. What it takes nature millions of years to do under natural pressure and temperature, we do in a minute,” he said.

“At a certain pressure and temperature, water changes from being very harmless to being quite an aggressive acid and alkaline simultaneously.”

“At these conditions the water actually ‘de-pluralises’ the brown coal and converts it into three products: high-grade coal, a group of oils and water,” he said.

IER’s operating reactor at Somersby, NSW, converts one dry ton of Gippsland Basin lignite into approximately two barrels of oil and 600 kg of high ranked coal.

“The energy density of our coal is about twice that of brown coal. You can significantly reduce the carbon dioxide footprint of a traditional brown coal power plant,” Dr Humphreys said.

According to independent expert reports, the company’s coal can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% when used for power generation.

“It can also turn a low-grade substance into high-grade products suitable for export,” Dr Humphreys added.

The technology could also have huge ramifications for the global oil market.

“Victoria alone has 25% of the world’s brown coal. These reserves have a greater oil potential than all of the Middle East put together,” Dr Humphreys said.

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