New carbon capture tech tested in Australia

JIJI

A joint project between Japan and Australia to test a new technology to capture and store carbon dioxide produced from coal-burning thermal power generation has been launched in Biloela, a town in eastern Queensland, Australia.

A ceremony to mark the completion of facilities for the project took place at the Callide A coal-fired thermal power station on Saturday.

The new oxyfuel technology was developed by Japan’s Electric Power Development Co., better known as J-Power, and heavy machinery maker IHI Corp.

The technology removes nitrogen, which accounts for about 80 percent of the air, from the equation, so the coal is only fired with oxygen. As a result, waste gases produced after the coal burning are mostly carbon dioxide, which is then liquefied by cooling and stored deep underground.

This method is easier and safer than other carbon capture methods, according to sources involved in the Callide Oxyfuel Project.

Coal is a cheaper thermal power fuel than liquefied natural gas, but produces more carbon dioxide, a major heat-trapping gas blamed for global warming. The public-private project was launched to lessen the problem.

Akira Yasui, chief at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s coal division, who attended the ceremony, told reporters that coal could be a clean energy source depending on how it is used.

The oxyfuel test project will cost 241 million Australian dollars ($253 million). The Australian government’s Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund will provide AU$50 million and the Japanese government AU$17.5 million.

Participants from the private sector include Australia’s CS Energy and trader Mitsui & Co.

The project recovers 70 tons of carbon dioxide a day for storage deep under a basin some 300 km away from the Callide A power plant.

The biggest hurdle for the commercialization of the technology is how to reduce costs involved. Under the Callide Oxyfuel Project, carbon dioxide recovery costs are estimated at about ¥2,000 per ton and costs for its transportation and storage at ¥3,000.

Meanwhile, the Australian government introduced a carbon dioxide tax this year, imposing AU$23, or about ¥2,000, per ton.

At Saturday’s ceremony, Australian Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson said Australia hopes to maintain the opportunities for coal use both in and outside the country, stressing the importance of promoting technologies to make coal a clean energy source.

He also expressed hope for stepped-up exports of Australian coal and a major reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in the country, which depends on coal as a major power source.