Low-emissions coal on agenda

It’s hard to imagine a meeting to discuss future uses of brown coal would kick off with an explanation of the risks of climate change, but that’s exactly what happened at a community forum in Traralgon on Tuesday evening.

The forum was held at Century Inn by Brown Coal Innovation Australia, a not-for-profit organisation established in 2009 to look at ways of using brown coal while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

More than 75 people attended the meeting, which featured a presentation by BCIA chair Gerry Morvell and chief executive Phil Gurney.

The presentation opened with graphs highlighting the impact of global warming on land and sea temperatures.

Visitors were told the organisation accepted the science of climate change and was instead holding the forum to highlight potential future uses of brown coal which produced low or zero emissions.

Following the meeting, Mr Morvell said that was an important part of the company’s remit.

“Our starting point as an organisation was it has to be clean, it has to be low emissions,” he said.

“The local community, the global community, the Australian community and the Victorian community have all made various iterations of ‘we don’t want brown coal if it’s generating waste into the atmosphere’.”

The forum featured a presentation of potential uses of brown coal the organisation is investigating, such as using fast ramp-up coal generators to support renewable energy and Japanese interest in producing electricity from hydrogen made in the Latrobe Valley.

Agricultural uses, such as fertilisers, and producing materials such as carbon fibres and carbon polymers were also discussed.

However, it was noted that many of these technologies were still in the research phase or were not commercially viable without further technological advances.

Following the presentation, a member of the audience asked if there were risks associated with sequestering carbon underground while another noted hydrogen could be produced from renewable technologies.

“Despite the debate you’re seeing about renewables versus clean coal, the reality is renewables have a very important part and growing part in the energy economy,” Mr Morvell said.

“We think there’s a residual role here for coal in the electricity (sector) but there are huge opportunities for coal going into the hydrogen economy or the production of carbon polymers, carbon fibres.”