Hundreds of jobs to flow from Valley-based coal projects

TWO emerging brown coal technology developers will be granted $50 million in joint government funding today in an effort to diversify Latrobe Valley’s future coal industry.

Coal Energy Australia and Ignite Energy Resources were selected from a reported 21 companies bidding for access to the region’s brown-coal resource, as part of the 50-50 State-Federal $90 million Advanced Lignite Demonstration Program.

The companies will build demonstration plants at Energy Australia’s Yallourn Power Station and gain access to a long-term supply of coal from the Yallourn mine.

The projects are expected to create a combined 350 jobs during the construction phase of the two developments, and close to 200 full-time ongoing operational positions.

Two years in the making, Energy and Resources Minister Russell Northe said today’s announcement was a significant step towards the construction and operation of demonstration plants in the Latrobe Valley.

“The projects we are announcing today have the potential to bring significant employment and investment to Latrobe Valley and a contribution to the economic growth of the area,” Mr Northe said.

Coal Energy Australia has been granted $30 million to develop a $143 million lignite upgrading plant, producing low volatile solid fuel or char – a substitute for Pulverised Coal Injection coal in steel manufacturing.

The plant will also produce ‘pyrolysis oil’, distilled to make various oils including diesel for industrial heating, and ammonium sulphate for use as a fertiliser or soil conditioner.

Ignite Energy Resources has been granted $20 million to develop an $84.3 million plant to produce ‘oily coal’, which can be separated into synthetic crude and micronised upgraded coal, upgraded coal for blast furnaces as PCI for steel manufacturing and synthetic crude for refined fuel sources such as diesel and petrol.

Environment Victoria acting chief executive Mark Wakeham said the state and federal governments were throwing good money away and chasing an illusion of a new brown coal industry while the Latrobe Valley was still recovering from the Hazelwood mine fire disaster.

“The state and federal governments are gambling with taxpayers money on an industry that has had its day, supporting projects that most likely will never get off the ground, while slashing support for the genuinely clean renewable industries of the future,” Mr Wakeham said.

“These unconventional and untested technologies are likely to be considerably more polluting than their conventional counterparts over the full lifecycle.

“Over the past four decades we have consistently seen these grand claims about jobs and new technologies for the Valley, but the reality is the world is moving to cleaner energy sources and brown coal is a poor quality and polluting fuel.”

Read Monday’s Express for comprehensive coverage of the announcement.