12/12/2007 - 22:00

Big changes vital

12/12/2007 - 22:00

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Major technological breakthroughs will be the key to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Sam Walsh.

Big changes vital

Major technological breakthroughs will be the key to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Sam Walsh.

Mr Walsh said small incremental steps wouldn’t achieve the drastic improvements the world needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“It doesn’t mean that we don’t set targets within our business, we do,” he said.

“But having done that, we also recognise the need for some humdingers of projects that will make a huge impact on greenhouse.”

Mr Walsh said Rio was keen to invest in major projects that delivered the maximum environmental benefit, with the creation of Hydrogen Energy, a joint venture between BP and Rio Tinto, an example of this thinking.

The JV has plans for a $2 billion, low-emissions coal-fired power station in Kwinana, located alongside BP’s oil refinery and Rio Tinto’s HIsmelt facility.

The proposed 500-megawatt plant would be fitted with carbon capture technology, allowing it to capture almost 90 per cent of its carbon emissions, or four million tonnes of carbon dioxide, each year.
The carbon will be transported offshore via a pipeline and stored in a geological formation two kilometres beneath the seabed of the Perth basin.

“We can invest in projects that will reduce greenhouse and climate change, we have a bit of money to invest in those sorts of things,” he said.

“But if that doesn’t actually generate the best option, the most effective option, and same amount of money can be spent over here and you can triple or 10 times the benefit, it just doesn’t make sense to do the first option.”

BP Kwinana Refinery managing director Thys Heyns said industry needed to be prepared for change and anticipate the changes ahead.

“We need to participate in step-out break-through solutions,” he told the forum.

Low-emissions technologies developed in WA are at the forefront of global research into improving efficiencies within industry.

Rio’s HIsmelt plant, which produces 800,000t of quality pig iron each year using the breakthrough low-emission HIsmelt technology, has received interest from around the world, most notably from the Chinese government.

Rio invested almost $1 billion into the project, and estimates the technology could provide reductions of at least 20 per cent and possibly up to 90 per cent in greenhouse gas emissions in the iron-making process.

Earlier this year, Alcoa launched its new groundbreaking Carbon Capture technology at its Kwinana alumina refinery, which has the potential to deliver major greenhouse benefits to the global aluminium industry.

Developed by Alcoa’s research and development at Kwinana, the process involves mixing bauxite residue, a by-product of the aluminum-making process, with carbon dioxide, locking up large volumes of CO2.

The Kwinana plant will lock up 70,000t of CO2 a year, the equivalent of taking 17,500 cars off the road. When rolled out across all three of its refineries, the process will capture 300,000t of CO2 a year.

WA Sustainable Energy Association chief executive Ray Wills said the state could deploy renewable energy generation with current technologies.

“It’s assumed that [renewables] are expensive. But it’s plant we keep, its plant that then generates energy without a fuel cost, apart from biomass.”

“[Renewables] are going to generate a new pile of generation that creates new jobs, creates new industry, creates new businesses, new opportunities.”

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