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Australia launches first carbon capture plant

Australia has launched it’s first-ever carbon capture plant in Queensland, a move that aims to slash its immense greenhouse gas emissions as a coal-dependent nation.

Touted as “one of the worlds’s most advanced carbon capture projects,” the $208 million Callide Oxyfuel Project aims to demonstrate how the technology can be used in existing coal-fired stations to generate electricity with significantly lower emissions.

It will trap emissions from the Callide A coal-fired station of CS Energy, a Queensland government-owned energy provider.

According to project director Dr. Chris Spero, the carbon capture technology includes two parts.

“The first part involves the combustion of coal in a mixture of oxygen and recycled exhaust gases to concentrate carbon dioxide and pollutants such as oxides of sulfur and nitrogen into a much smaller volume of waste gas,” he described. “This is followed by the capture of these components to avoid release into the atmosphere.”

The Callide Oxyfuel Project is a joint venture between the Australian and Japanese governments, and several industry groups such as the Australian Coal Association, Xstrata Coal, Schlumberger and Japanese partners J-POWER, Mitsui and IHI Corporation.

The Queensland carbon capture plant was awarded $50 million from the Australian government under the Low Emissions Demonstration Fund. It also received support from the Japanese and Queensland governments and technical support from Japan Coal Energy Center.

The Australian Government will contribute another $13 million to stretch the project’s demonstration phase up to November 2014.

“The project is a landmark joint initiative between Australian and Japanese industry and governments driving the demonstration of technologies to reduce emissions from power generation,” said Greg Sullivan, deputy chief executive officer of A.C.A.

He noted that retrofitting the global, fossil-fuelled power station will be necessary if the world wants to reduce its greenhouse gas trajectory.

According to the International Energy Agency, installed coal-fired generation capacity across the world is currently at 1.6 million megawatts. Meanwhile, the World Resources Institute projected that another 1,199 new coal-fired plants, with an overall output of more than 1.4 million megawatts, are on the pipeline globally across 59 countries.

Australia alone has about 30,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation capacity, which account for three quarters of the country’s electricity needs.

“The reality is that coal will continue to play a major role in energy generation for decades, which is why any meaningful response to climate change must address emissions from the use of coal. Projects like Callide Oxyfuel are an essential piece of the puzzle,” stressed Mr. Sullivan. – C. Dominguez

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