|GreatPoint Energy’s Hydromethanation process|
produces Methane and Carbon Dioxide from Coal
These research centres are generally effective, but it is a rare system that cannot be made better.
There is an issue with at least one of the Cooperative Research Centres that can be substantially improved.
The area for improvement is the development of efficient clean-coal technology. An announcement was made in December last year on the direction of research for this topic. It could only seriously have been made by an advertising agency that imagined it could sell a technology to decrease the efficiency of coal-based power generation.
The entire world is moving to increase, not decrease, the efficiency of power generation and energy use.
In 2008 the Co-operative Research Centre for Coal in Sustainable Development recognised the rather obvious and sensible research strategy:
“In general the advantages of [integrated combined cycle gasification] IGCC are:
- It can achieve up to 50% thermal efficiency. This is a higher efficiency compared to conventional coal power plants meaning there is less coal consumed to produce the same amount of energy, resulting in lower rates of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions
- Carbon capture is easier and costs less than capture from a pulverised coal plant...”
The benefits of this sensible research strategy increased substantially in May this year, with both Siemens and GE releasing new combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power stations that can achieve world-record thermal efficiency in excess of 60%. A utility in Florida has already purchased 6 of the new Siemens CCGT power stations.
|Siemens SGT5-8000 Gas Turbine |
pushes world record in efficiency to over 60 percent
However, on 20 December 2010 the media reported:
“According to Peter Cook, chief executive of the Co-operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies in Canberra, the research effort [IN AUSTRALIA] is swinging back in favour of capturing carbon emissions after the coal has been burned rather than trying to radically alter the coal itself before combustion. 'We are seeing that more conventional ways of making electricity are being looked at again [IN AUSTRALIA] for post-combustion capture,' Dr Cook said.”
Though this was a very strange idea last December, it is even stranger now with the Opposition spokesperson for climate change Greg Hunt claiming the carbon tax means a 10% hike in electricity bills in the first year alone.
Having the Co-operative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies researching technology to decrease the efficiency of power generation will certainly increase electricity prices.
This is a summary of power generation options for production of 1000 MWh of electricity with a carbon tax of about $24 per tonne of CO2 emissions:
- NEW TECHNOLOGY: Substitute Natural Gas (120 tonnes of methane, CH4) contains 90 tonnes of Carbon which is converted into 330 tonnes CO2 at 60% thermal efficiency. Carbon tax: About $8 per MWh which is 0.8 of one cent per kWh.
- OLD TECHNOLOGY: Coal with 270 tonnes Carbon converted into 990 tonnes CO2 at 40% thermal efficiency. Carbon tax: about $24 per MWh which is 2.4 cents per kWh.
- The separation of the methane / CO2 mixture created by hydromethanation can be done with simple, inexpensive and commercially available technology. There is no research required.
- In 2011, Australian thermal coal averaged about $AUD120 per metric tonne. The new technology saves at least 90 kg of coal for each MWh of electricity. This is a saving of about $10 per MWh which is 1 cent per kWh.
- Instead of paying carbon tax of about $24 per MWh which is 2.4 cents per kWh, the carbon tax will be only about $8 per MWh which is 0.8 of one cent per kWh.