How to Cut Coal Fired Emissions


Researchers have developed a new type of engine that generates energy using heat already produced in power stations, allowing a coal-fired power station to halve its emissions, while a new agreement between the governments of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) and Queensland will create a world-class research alliance for the development of viable clean coal technologies.

Report in The Australian (16 December 2009): 

AUSTRALIAN researchers say they have found a way to slash carbon emissions from coal-fired power stations by doubling their efficiency, opening the way for the long-term survival of the coal industry.

They have developed a new type of engine that generates energy using heat already produced in power stations but lost into the atmosphere, allowing a coal-fired power station to halve its emissions.

Former mining union official John Maitland and his company ourSun announced the development yesterday to coincide with the international climate change conference in Copenhagen.

Mr Maitland told The Australian he had registered a patent for the new engine, which had been proved viable in computer simulations and was now moving to a prototype stage with commercial viability expected by 2013.

“The IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change) wants the world to reduce its emissions by 50 per cent by 2050,” Mr Maitland said.

“Here we have a new engine that can deliver close to that just using energy efficiency. Successful development would secure coal generation jobs and those in energy-intensive industry while addressing climate change.”

Researchers around the world are racing to develop technology to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Development of so-called clean-coal technology will be crucial for Australia, which relies heavily on its coal exports.

Much of the push for clean-coal technology has been based on so-called carbon capture and storage — a yet-to-be proven technology that would capture carbon emissions from power stations and bury them in undersea formations.

But Mr Maitland said his company’s engine attacked the problem by increasing the efficiency of existing power stations.

It was also designed to be retrofitted to any power station using any energy source — nuclear, solar, gas or biomass.

Mr Maitland said most power stations lost two-thirds of the heat they generated into the atmosphere.

The ourSun engine would harness some of this energy, increasing the thermal efficiency rates up to more than 60 per cent.

The company was applying to the state governments of Queensland, NSW and Victoria for grants being offered to commercialise technologies that would clean up the coal-fired power industry.

Mr Maitland is a former national secretary of the mining division of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union and was previously on the board of Eraring Energy in NSW.



Queensland signed an agreement this week with the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia to work together on projects to drive change in the energy sector

Climate Change and Sustainability Minister Kate Jones signed the new agreement during a meeting with North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Energy, Dr Jens Baganz in Düsseldorf.

“North Rhine-Westphalia faces many of the same challenges as Queensland in reducing emissions – it is Germany’s most energy-intensive state and its largest producer of black coal,” Ms Jones said.

“Queensland has long recognised what we have in common with NRW, but this new agreement strengthens our relationship at a time when the task of transforming the energy sector is reaching a critical phase.”

Queensland has had a formal relationship with NRW, collaborating in the areas of power plant technologies, renewable technologies and energy efficiency.

Ms Jones said the goal of the new agreement was to speed up the delivery of outcomes by committing both governments to support a number of specific projects.

“Our research institutions in each state have been investigating new areas of cooperation such as coal gasification and carbon capture and storage,” she said.

 “With a new global agreement on climate change imminent, there is a strong imperative for our governments to support these new areas of interest and help deliver results.”

“For example, this new agreement provides for the Government of North Rhine-Westphalia to work with the Queensland and Australian governments on a proposal to create a world-class research alliance aimed at solving obstacles to the development of viable clean coal technologies.

“And although research and development is important in demonstrating new technologies, the new agreement recognises that technical skills are also important in taking ideas out of the lab and into the field.

“Under this new agreement, the Queensland and North Rhine-Westphalia governments will also jointly fund a new exchange program aimed at sharing the technical and engineering skills needed to commercially demonstrate clean coal technologies and equip our energy networks for the future.”

Ms Jones said the timing of the new agreement with North Rhine-Westphalia was significant as it was ahead of a major gathering of international state and territory leaders in Copenhagen.

“The UN estimates that states and territories will be responsible for implementing up to 80 per cent of the actions required to reduce emissions under a new global agreement,” she said.

“We want outcomes under this memorandum to stand as an example of how other states and territories can work together to make this happen, and that’s the message that my North Rhine-Westphalia counterpart and I will be presenting at the Climate Leaders Summit in Copenhagen tomorrow (Tuesday, December 15).”

The Climate Leaders Summit will bring together Premiers, Governors, Ministers, Mayors and CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies in the critical days leading up to the final negotiations in Copenhagen.


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