A CSIRO project could open the door to brown coal export.

28 April 2014 — A collaboration between the CSIRO and Brown Coal Innovation Australia could see the country’s vast resources of cheap brown coal exported overseas.

In its current form, Victorian brown coal has a high moisture content, low energy density, and is prone to spontaneous combustion. This has stopped its export potential.

The CSIRO/BCIA trial project, announced today [Monday] by Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources Russell Northe at the International Low Rank Coal Industry Symposium in Melbourne, involves converting coal or biomass into a water-based slurry that is then directly injected into a large, specially adapted diesel engine.

While the technology aims to reduce brown coal emissions by up to 50 per cent, it could also see Victoria’s 430 billion tonnes of brown coal reserves – a quarter of the world’s brown coal resources – become open to export, with the liquid slurry being able to be shipped much like oil.

“CSIRO is excited about the potential for [the Direct Injection Carbon Engine] to lower power costs, halve carbon dioxide intensity and create a new export market for both brown and black coal,” CSIRO energy group executive Alex Wonhas said.

Brown Coal Innovation Australia has allocated $1 million to the technology trial, which will take place in the Latrobe Valley.

Environment Victoria, which has been protesting today’s Symposium, has been critical of attempts to open the gates for the export of brown coal, saying it would be a costly exercise that could blow the global carbon budget.

“The smoke has barely lifted in the Latrobe Valley and yet the government is at the Hyatt courting polluting plans for the Latrobe Valley,” acting chief executive Mark Wakeham said.

“It’s insulting to those suffering in Morwell that the government is this week showing polluters around the very sites that caused the disaster in the first place.”

The project is supported by industry partners including Exergen, Ignite Energy Resources, AGL , MAN Diesel & Turbo and EnergyAustralia. BCIA receives funding from the State of Victoria and the Australian National Low Emissions Coal Research and Development Ltd.