05/03/2008 - 22:00

Coal tests boost SW case

05/03/2008 - 22:00

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Positive results indicating that coal from Collie is suitable for gasification have prompted renewed efforts to push for major development in state’s South West.

Coal tests boost SW case

Positive results indicating that coal from Collie is suitable for gasification have prompted renewed efforts to push for major development in state’s South West.

Coal companies and government officials in the region have been buoyed by recent gasification test results, which have helped boost the case for the development of large-scale projects by potentially offering competitive energy.

The hope in the South West is that new technology could again put coal firmly back into the energy mix by making it both cost effective and environmentally friendly enough to compete with export-focused natural gas.

The Coal Futures Group, a body chaired by local MLA Mick Murray, has been seeking developments in the region that might be able to benefit from new technologies making coal a viable fuel source for the longer term.

“We are actively chasing opportunities to have a gasification plant built in the South West,” a government source said.

Burrup Fertilisers has been put in the frame as a potential developer, given its expansion plans in the state have been thwarted by difficulties in accessing gas supplies.

Burrup company director Wolfgang Jovanovic said the company had put in an expression of interest in developing a solar power operation to provide energy to the Binningup desalination plant, but it had no plans for any other major projects in the South West.

Mr Jovanovic said Burrup was focused on its proposed stock market listing later this year.

Burrup chief Pankaj Oswal and his wife Radhika last month registered a new business, North Queensland Petrochemical Holdings Pty Ltd, which Mr Jovanovic described as a precautionary step that was part of the group’s plans to look for future growth opportunities.

Hydrogen Energy, a joint venture between BP plc and Rio Tinto Ltd, is also considered a candidate for development in the area, especially as gasification is expected to aid geosequestration, a process the group has mooted as a possibility to store emissions offshore.

The government is understood to be offering to make test gasification data available to parties wanting to build a development case.

The results also fit the plans of coal producer Griffin Energy, which has two power stations planned for the area. The Bluewaters I and II plants will both have the potential for retrofitting to accommodate gasification technology.

However, there are known to be some hurdles.

Industrial space in the area is at a premium, with question marks raised over the amount of land available near the Bluewaters project, the Shotts industrial area near Collie short of the necessary approvals for development and Kemerton still going through a consultative process on its expansion with significant opposition from local residents. 

Coal gasification uses oxygen at high pressures to break coal into several components, such as hydrogen and carbon monoxide that can be used as a fuel instead of burning coal.

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