Tech trial aims to cut brown coal emissions

CSIRO

New technology that has the potential to drastically slash emissions from brown coal-generated electricity will be trialled in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.

The CSIRO and its industry partners will trial the direct injection carbon engine (DICE) with the aim of reducing emissions by 50 per cent compared to current technology. Exergen, Ignite Energy Resources, AGL, MAN Diesel & Turbo and EnergyAustralia are all supporting the trial.

Brown Coal Innovation Australia (BCIA) has allocated $1 million to the trial, which is designed to maximise the value of Australia’s coal reserves. The Latrobe Valley is the second largest and lowest cost brown coal resource in the world.

The technology involves converting coal or biomass into a water-based slurry that is directly injected into a large, specially adapted diesel engine.

The fuel burns to produce intense temperature and pressure in the engine, which provides highly efficient power to turn electrical generators.

“Australia has the second largest brown coal resource in the world but current utilisation technologies are carbon intensive so we need to implement cleaner and more efficient ways to generate energy from coal,” CSIRO energy group executive Alex Wonhas said.

“CSIRO is excited about the potential for DICE to lower power costs, halve carbon dioxide (CO2) intensity and create a new export market for both brown and black coal.”

An existing laboratory scale prototype engine will trial fuel based on Victorian brown coal and this work will be followed by trials using the same fuel in a large scale test engine in Japan.

The research aims to determine whether DICE can enable brown coal to produce Australia’s lowest cost, reduced CO2 electricity for the staged replacement of existing coal power plants.

“Thanks to the support of BCIA, we can partner with industry to deliver solutions like DICE that will ensure more efficient and sustainable use of our brown coal reserves and give Australians continued access to affordable and reliable energy supply,” Dr Wonhas said.

“The energy sector has long been a linchpin of our country’s economic prosperity and coal is expected to continue to make an important contribution in decades to come.

“I believe CSIRO has a critical role to play in supporting industry to minimise the environmental impacts from coal through the application of world leading science.”

The trial was announced at the recent third International Low Rank Coal Industry Symposium in Melbourne.