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Micro-cell LNG unit a hot item

COOL Energy is running hot. The company, which was formed three months ago, is enjoying the fruits of LNG research breakthroughs by Curtin University Professor Robert Amin.

Professor Amin’s LNG micro-cell technology enables the con-version of natural gas to liquid natural gas, on a small scale, using an innovative transportable refrigeration system.

Because it can be liquefied on site the technology makes the exploitation of small gas fields economically viable.

Professor Amin is currently talking with major international oil companies about the micro-cell technology.

“We are working with Shell on proving certain aspects of the process,” he said.

Professor Amin’s first major research breakthrough, the gas hydrate project developed in 1998, is now owned by Woodside.

“It converts gas into an ice-like shape product. You can store the gas in a nice format.”

Woodside has been keen to help Professor Amin and his team continue its research and provided funds to create the Woodside Hydro Carbon Research Facility, of which Professor Amin is inaugural chair.

“In 2001 we came up with the micro-cell LNG technology,” he said. “Normally LNG cannot be used economically for small operations.”

Professor Amin said the process also provided a better and cheaper way of converting gas.

“Normally with LNG you have to treat the gas and remove the carbon dioxide because it freezes in temperatures below -56 degrees, which then blocks the pipelines,” he said. “With this technology [micro-cell LNG] we don’t treat the gas, we can remove the CO2 in the process of liquefying it. It’s much cheaper.”

Cool Energy, of which Curtin University owns one third, has developed a two tonne unit but needs to raise funds to reach a commercially viable level, according to Curtin University director of research and development Dr Barney Glover.

Dr Glover said the $1.8 million Start Grant obtained by Cool Energy stakeholder Core Labora-tories produced the first functioning prototype but the company would need to gain further funds to produce the commercially viable 20t unit.

“That’s the size that makes it commercially viable. We have international interest and it will be snapped up,” he said.

The technology also has applications in the coal and energy industries.

“We are looking at applying the technology to liquefying methane. There is a lot of methane in coal. People are using that to generate power,” Dr Glover said.

“In Queensland they take the gas out of the coal and pump it through pipelines to do power generations. But sometimes you don’t have pipelines so you need to convert the gas into something that can be transported.

“This [micro-cell technology] would work.”

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