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Technology research starts to bear fruit

RESEARCH into new oil and gas technologies by Perth education institutions is expected to start paying dividends for industry backers, with at least one project ready for commercialisation.

Curtin University confirmed this week it was ready to commercialise a miniature, transportable LNG plant that is predicted to slash the huge capital costs of large-scale liquefied natural gas processing plants.

Potentially lower cost production technology comes at a time when oil and gas giants are haggling over the rights to develop gas fields in the Timor Sea. It is understood Woodside’s renewable energy arm, Metasource, is investigating the potential of the LNG Micro-Cell, developed by Professor Robert Amin

Sources said other companies that could potentially use the technology in WA were Apache Energy, Exxon Mobil, Energy Equity, Shell and Wesfarmers.

Professor Amin, who did not want to comment for this article, is also chairman of the Woodside Research Foundation and is working closely with Woodside on the development of synthetic natural gas hydrates at Curtin University’s Woodside Research Institute.

A synthetic natural gas hydrate pilot plant has been established at the university as part of a three-year $1.8 million project with a view to locating a demonstration project involving small-scale production, transportation, re-gasification and electricity generation onsite at a WA commercial venture.

The further developed Micro-Cell LNG plant is about the size of a wardrobe and has the ability to produce a capacity of 1,500 litres per day and could be used on previously unviable gas fields.

According to Tony Kennaird from Core Laboratories Australia, which provided funding for the Micro-Cell LNG project, the new technology could offer huge opportunities for WA. Mr Kennaird said there already had been interest from Indonesia and Malaysia.

Dr Barney Glover from Curtin University said he could envisage the plant being used at service stations or even on barges for processing offshore.

It can be put on the back of a truck, brought to the well head and converted to LNG on site before being transported.

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