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New Hope For Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions In Australia

Beyond simply storing the CO2 in coal beds that can't be mined, researchers say they could potentially use the methane naturally occurring in most deep coal beds for power generation.

Sydney, Australia (SPX) Jun 20, 2005
An international research project has for the first time successfully stored carbon dioxide in European coal beds.

Scientists from CSIRO's Petroleum Division who were involved in the four year project, say its success could have major implications for Australia, leading to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions associated with electrical power generation.

CSIRO has set up a Flagship Program, Energy Transformed, to develop and implement technologies to halve Australia's greenhouse gas emissions from the energy and transport sectors by 2050.

Flagship Director John Wright says, "The storage of CO2 in unusable coal beds demonstrated in the project is very exciting. Because of the structure of our energy industry, Australia has one of the highest greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the developed world. It is a national imperative to reduce this, particularly from fossil fuel power generation."

The RECOPOL project (Reduction of CO2 emission by means of CO2 storage in coal seams in the Silesian Coal Basin of Poland) was a research and field demonstration involving numerous research institutes, universities and industrial partners, including CSIRO.

Dr Wright says, "In Australia we need a pilot project to ensure we can deal with CO2 emissions in a responsible manner. Coal is still the cheapest and most effective means of power generation and as such, it will be with us for many years to come. If we can learn to deal with the downside of burning coal, then there will be significant benefits for Australians and the environment."

Beyond simply storing the CO2 in coal beds that can't be mined, researchers say they could potentially use the methane naturally occurring in most deep coal beds for power generation.

Dr Luke Connell of CSIRO Petroleum says, "The coal beds of interest with this approach are those unsuitable for mining due to their depth or other characteristics. These coal beds have a great capacity for storing CO2 and it would be possible to use the injected CO2 to displace methane that could be used for power generation. This combination could allow power generation with zero greenhouse gas emissions."

Australia's greenhouse gas emission currently sits at around 27 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per person. This compares to 13 tonnes per person in New Zealand, 10 tonnes in Japan and 21 tonnes in the USA.

Dr Connell says, "The international scientific community, governments and industry all have a vested interest in finding viable solutions to a global problem. The RECOPOL project has significantly improved the scientific understanding of coal beds as reservoirs for CO2 and the experience gained through the project will help the development of future projects."

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