Friday, 11 May 2007

Coal - the fuel of the future? (clean coal technology)

THE Green Party of Australia have called the coal industry plans to raise $1 billion to research CCT (clean coal technology) a waste of money. The $1bn required for the research will be raised by the mining companies by means of a 10 year levy on industry.

The Australian Coal Association executive director, Mark O'Neill, said: "This should leave no doubt about the coal industry's intention to partner with state and federal governments on nationally significant clean coal projects."

Australian Greens Senator, Kerry Nettle, said: "We should be putting money into renewable energy that we know works and that can work right now, rather then putting the money away for a technology that we don't know that it works."

Current uncertainty in the global supply of oil and gas has brought coal back as a viable source of energy. Coal is widely available, according to the World coal Institute there are enough reserves to last 164 years (Oil 41 years, Gas 67 years) at current production rates.

The International Energy Agency has a Clean Coal Centre, it’s managing director, John Topper, said: "If you are in China or India where you have huge resources of coal and you have elements of the population that do not have access to electricity then your driver is to build and operate power stations as quickly and as effectively as possible." It is hoped that the development of CCT (clean coal technology) will allow coal to be used as a environmentally friendly fuel.

CCT comes in many forms, the US FutureGen programme, is a $1bn project attempting prove the viability of near-zero emission coal-fuelled power. The project will involve the integration of an IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) electricity plant with hydrogen production, carbon dioxide capture and geological storage.

The major concern is not if the technology will work but how long it will take to implement. Michael Cupit, director of energy at Ernst & Young said: "It all depends upon the uptake among the big companies. Once somebody takes the bull by the horns, you can usually squeeze the technology and make it commercial fairly quickly."

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