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Monday, September 3, 2018

Saving $1 million allocated to reinvent the wheel

The Australian Government announced it was allocating another $1 million for research into ways to make something useful from brown coal reserves in Victoria.

Coal has a future in Victoria: Matt Canavan

Senator the Hon Matt Canavan
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia

Investing in brown coal research and development

31 August 2018

The Coalition Government continues to focus on harnessing the economic benefits that can come from the nation’s vast brown coal resources by making $1 million in funding available to Brown Coal Innovation Australia (BCIA).

BCIA will use the funding to focus on advancing Australia’s economic prosperity by researching low emissions technologies for both electricity generation and products derived from brown coal.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said BCIA was at the forefront of research into low-emissions, low-cost, coal technologies and novel, high-value products derived from brown coal. Since 2009, the Government has provided more than $7 million to BCIA through the Commonwealth’s funding of the Australian National Low Emissions Coal Research and Development initiative.
This funding comes on top of the $620 million already being administered by the Australian Government to accelerate the deployment of low emission fossil fuel technologies.

Australian Governments have been "investing" in "harnessing the economic benefits that can come from the nation's vast brown coal resources" long before 2009.

For over thirty years no progress has been made.

Victoria's brown coal in the Latrobe Valley still has a moisture content of more than 50%:
Moisture content of raw coal Wt(%)

Research is still fixated with the presumption that before any value can be made of this vast resource that "coal drying is essential":
Coal drying is essential...

In 2012 the US granted a patent for converting 'wet carbonaceous material' (such as "brown coal") to methane:

Method and apparatus for steam hydro-gasification with increased conversion times

 Patent: US8143319B2


A method and apparatus for converting carbonaceous material to a stream of carbon rich gas, comprising heating a slurry feed containing the carbonaceous material in a hydrogasification process using hydrogen and steam, at a temperature and pressure sufficient to generate a methane and carbon monoxide rich stream in which the conversion time in the process is between 5 and 45 seconds.

It could be applied in a plant with a design such as the following, or one that uses hydrogen produced by electrolysis from renewable energy in place of the steam reforming unit, or one that produces any combination of hydrogen and/or synthetic natural gas:
Converting brown coal - without drying - to methane (and/or hydrogen)
Converting brown coal - without drying - to methane (and/or hydrogen)

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Energy transition

Final Report Summary - HELMETH (Integrated High-Temperature Electrolysis and Methanation for Effective Power to Gas Conversion), 25 July 2018

A highly efficient Power-to-Gas process has been realized by the European research project HELMETH. It has the potential to be the most efficient storage solution for renewable energy utilizing the existing natural gas grid without capacity limitations and to be a source for “green” Substitute Natural Gas (SNG) to avoid fossil carbon dioxide emissions.

The objective of the HELMETH project is the proof of concept of a highly efficient Power-to-Gas process by realizing the first prototype that combines a pressurized high temperature steam electrolysis with a CO2-methanation module.

The demonstration plant was assembled at the sunfire facility in Dresden. The methanation unit, developed and built by KIT in Karlsruhe, was set up inside a container and transported to sunfire to perform combined operational tests.

The steam outlet from the methanation cooling circuit is fed to the electrolyser and the hydrogen output from the electrolyser is fed to the methanation unit. The steam is converted to hydrogen in the electrolyser.
Coupled Power-to-Gas plant (left container: methanation; right container: electrolyser)
Coupled Power-to-Gas plant (left container: methanation; right container: electrolyser)

The efficiency is significantly increased by using the heat of reaction from the exothermic methanation reaction to produce steam for the high temperature electrolysis.

Since the produced SNG is fully compatible with the existing natural gas grid and storage infrastructure, practically no capacity limitations apply to store energy from fluctuating renewable energy sources.

Steam Hydrogasification

By replacing the CO2 methanation module in the Power-to-Gas process realized by the HELMETH research project with a lignite methanation module, Australia can manufacture 50% renewable methane. That is, synthetic natural gas containing 50% renewable energy (as hydrogen) and 50% fossil fuel (from low-cost wet lignite).

This can fuel dispatchable generators in conjunction with renewable intermittent generators to provide 100% reliable electricity generation: the intermittent renewable generators supplying 50% of electricity and dispatchable generators powered by 50% renewable methane providing the other 50%.

The lignite methanation module has been developed in the U.S.

Steam Hydrogasification in a hydrogen environment

Making synthetic natural gas from hydrogen and a variety of waste streams and coal has been researched for some time.

For example:

UC Riverside researchers receive two grants to advance steam hydrogasification reaction for waste-to-fuels, 15 September 2011

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CERT) at the Bourns College of Engineering have received two grants to further explore a steam hydrogasification process they developed...

A $650,000 grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) extends its commitment to $2 million to CERT for the patented steam hydrogasification reaction (SHR), which can turn any carbonaceous material into transportation fuels or natural gas. The CEC grant will allow for the completion of a process demonstration unit at CERT that will provide data needed before a proposed pilot plant is built at the city of Riverside’s waste water treatment facility.

Synthetic natural gas made from wet carbonaceous feedstock such as lignite
Synthetic natural gas made from wet carbonaceous feedstock such as lignite

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A carbon policy thread

Cr Philip Penfold blocks advisor - too much advice
Cr Philip Penfold blocks advisor - too much advice

Maitland City Council



File No: P44197
Attachments: Nil
Responsible Officer: David Evans - General Manager

Bernie Mortomore - Executive Manager Planning, Environment and Lifestyle

Clr Ray Fairweather has indicated his intention to move the following Notice of Motion at the next Council Meeting being held on Tuesday 10 July 2012:


  1. The General Manager provide a report to council on all possible options available to council for the reduction of methane gas at the Mt Vincent Waste Site;
  2. What are those options and if council can implement any of those options to reduce the huge carbon tax cost impost on our ratepayers ($2.2 million dollars in 2012/2013 budget);
  3. The report expand on the possible sale of methane gas to generate power for electricity grid and if such a venture would benefit council financially;
  4. The opportunity if one exists for the calling of tenders for the extraction of methane gas for commercial uses; and
  5. What is involved in the 'burning option' of reducing methane gas and carbon tax payments.


The $2.2 million cost of the carbon tax is a huge impost on ratepayers (though it is yet to be properly costed) that needs urgent investigation on all options available to reduce those costs and if economically beneficial should be given urgent priority.


A reduction of methane gas emissions from any landfill can be made by reducing the quantity of organic matter buried at the site as methane gas generation is a product of decomposition of organic materials that are subject to anaerobic conditions. These conditions are found in a landfill.
In the landfill context if methane is being generated then a landfill gas extraction system can be installed to capture the gas, pass it through a flare to convert it to carbon dioxide and hence reduce the carbon footprint of the site. If there is sufficient and constant gas production the gas can be used to power a generator which will create electricity that can be either exported to the grid or used sacrificially on site.
Alternatively organic waste can be processed in aerobic conditions so that it does not convert the waste to methane. It will generate other gases but because methane is said to be more than 21 times more problematic than carbon dioxide the greenhouse gas outputs are reduced. Aerobic waste processing of total organic waste streams utilises some form of technology to control and manage the processes. Council will recall that a waste technology solution was explored through the HIR partnership prior to the project being abandoned.
Council has a contract in place to install a gas extraction system at the Mt Vincent Rd Waste Facility. This contract with LMS Energy was entered into on the basis that infrastructure costs and ongoing management of the system was borne by LMS Energy in return for the carbon credits generated minus a royalty payment to Council. The contract remains in place and commercial in confidence. The system is to be installed within the next 3 months and gas capture should commence towards the end of the year. At this stage the reduction effect on Council's carbon liability remains unknown. It will however reduce the gas emissions from the site.
Whether there will be sufficient gas generation from the site to generate power will be known once the system is commissioned. Given the system is being retrofitted the efficiencies of the gas capture are difficult to model.
A further detailed report can be provided to Council as required.

Page (270)

Friday, August 3, 2018

Transition from thermal coal exports

Australia exports 200 million tonnes of thermal coal each year.

Japan is the largest importer, importing 80 million tonnes per year. In planning to eliminate its reliance on fossil fuel imports, Japan is looking to CO2-free hydrogen to replace its imports of coal and LNG, used primarily for electricity generation, and oil, used primarily for road transport.

One step in the 20-year transition timetable is to invest in large solar PV installations in Saudi Arabia and construction of a 'hydrogen pipeline" to deliver hydrogen produced by electrolysis to Japan.

Another step is the construction of combined-cycle gas turbine power stations that have integrated gasification plants to convert imported coal to gas to fuel them. These plants can later run on hydrogen when sufficient supply is available.

Australia and Japan could co-ordinate projects in this transition of Japan's energy systems.
One of the benefits of co-ordination is that Australia's industry and workforce has a planned transition in how it prepares energy for export, adapting employment skills and infrastructure as the plan progresses.

Another of the benefits is that part of the infrastructure development is undertaken by Australia, sharing the effort so that Japan can focus its investments on the most efficient technology to use the energy it imports.

The long-term transition would see Australia's coal export terminals replaced with hydrogen export facilities and the fleet of bulk ore carriers replaced with specialised hydrogen shipping vessels. The coal mining workforce would gradually be replaced with a workforce that constructs and operates hydrogen production plants.

During the early years of the transition it may be beneficial to convert hydrogen and coal to methane and make use of existing natural gas pipelines, LNG export terminals and LNG tankers to transport the hydrogen to Japan's existing LNG import facilities.

One benefit for Japan would be to avoid the time and cost of building integrated coal-gasifiers with new combined-cycle gas turbine power stations and fuel cell generators. The gasification can be carried out in Australia before exporting the coal with hydrogen as LNG.

Large-scale solar farms are currently built with inverters that are a significant part of the cost.
The inverters change direct-current electricity produced by the solar panels into alternating-current electricity for distribution on the electricity grid.

Inverters aren't needed when the goal is to produce hydrogen by electrolysis with the electricity generated.

A second income-stream from renewable electricity production will assist farmers struggling with drought near coal-mining regions. Solar PV installations could be designed to be "stock-friendly" for Australian livestock producers, and not copies of European installations where fields are covered with closely-spaced solar panels just above ground level.

Cattle and solar PV systems
Cattle and solar PV systems

The renewable energy generated would be fed to electrolysis units creating hydrogen.
The hydrogen is to be transferred into methanation units that have pulverised coal handling equipment where the hydrogen and coal is transformed into methane, ready for transfer to LNG export terminals.

Thyssenkrupp coal handling system
Thyssenkrupp coal handling system
Gasification technologies
Gasification technologies

See Thyssenkrupp Australia - "Power-to-gas: Storing wind and sun [energy] in natural gas"

Power-to-gas: storing wind and sun renewable energy in natural gas

The 2015 Japanese government report "Overview of Assessment by Power Generation Cost Verification Working Group", Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ) explained that renewable energy costs are higher in Japan than in other countries, and showed Australia has a comparative advantage in large-scale wind and solar installations.
"Unit construction costs for solar PV and wind power generation systems in Japan are higher than in other countries. ...Apparent factors behind the cost gap include higher personnel costs, complex topography and FIT scheme introduction backgrounds in Japan." (at pages 8-9)

International comparison of unit construction costs for solar PV generation systems

Related posts:

Australian energy exports

Keeping waste plastic out of landfill


Thursday, July 26, 2018

Consumerism in an ecosystem

Rain forests are centres of great activity that depend on quite small reserves of nutrients.

Plants continuously absorbing sunlight transform water and carbon dioxide into polymers, mainly cellulose, and release oxygen.

On the rain forest floor, a myriad of animals and insect munch their way through fallen leaves and branches, breaking the polymers into water and carbon dioxide. Their waste releases the very small nutrient reserves back into the thin soil layer where they are once again available to the plant community.

Caterpillar eating a leaf
Caterpillar eating a leaf

A productive rain forest ecosystem harboring a great variety of living organisms is a stark contrast to a desert landscape in which far fewer living things eek out a sparse existence.

Human activity might be viewed as damaging and harmful to the environment, and though this is sometime a reasonable observation, it does not have to be.

Consumers supporting producers and discarding obsolete items provide a level of economic activity to engage people and allow their participation in economic and social life.

That discarded items accumulate and are not reprocessed is a problem that can be solved.

Steel and aluminium can be reprocessed more or less indefinitely. Demand for new steel and aluminium eventually declines in economies as the accumulated volume being recycled meets more and more of demand.

Collecting municipal waste, then sorting, recycling and reprocessing at large central plants has been a fairly universal approach for some time. New technology may allow for some waste material to be reprocessed at or near the point of origin, reducing the cost and complexity of large-scale collection and sorting.

Many waste items that are compounds of only carbon, hydrogen and oxygen can be completely decomposed into a gaseous fuel and may be substituted for natural gas in space heaters and hot water systems.

There is no need for waste materials to accumulate and degrade the environment. Creative solutions can be found. Many creative solution exist but simply aren't well known, hence the word "found" rather than "developed".

Energy in the Future

One creative solution that does not exist but may be developed is a business model and technology for virtually unlimited energy at little or no cost.

One possibility is a process to transform materials from one nuclear structure to another that is commercially viable and that generates energy as a byproduct. The energy byproduct can be distributed for a nominal charge.Transforming nuclear waste into safe, naturally occurring and valuable isotopes is a possible additional benefit.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Australian energy exports

Japan intends to establish a "hydrogen pipeline" to replace its existing imports of energy from Australia and elsewhere.
Hydrogen is the key to energy security and the fight against global warming

To speed up the development of a "hydrogen pipeline" for Japan, Australia may be able to adapt existing energy infrastructure for the purpose.

Hydrogen produced by renewable energy creates a number of challenges for special-purpose overland transport and shipping. An interim processing strategy can skip over these challenges and re-use existing infrastructure, saving time and money. A little chemistry explains how this can work...

When hydrogen is combined with carbon dioxide to form methane and water, the energy content in the methane is about the same as the energy that was present in just the hydrogen:

CO2 + 4H2 → CH4 + 2H2O

In the above reaction half of the hydrogen combines with oxygen from the carbon dioxide to form water. The other half of the hydrogen combines with the carbon from the carbon dioxide to form methane. This is known as the "Sabatier reaction". It is used commercially by Audi to create "e-gas" for its Compressed Natural Gas vehicles.

Natural gas is essentially methane with smaller amounts of other gases such as carbon monoxide and ethane. Methane made from hydrogen can be transported through natural gas pipelines and shipped as LNG - liquefied natural gas - from Australia to Japan using existing LNG terminals and LNG tankers.

When methane is combined with water to form hydrogen and carbon dioxide, the energy content in the hydrogen is about the same as the energy that was present in just the methane:

CH4 + 2H2O → 4H2 + CO2

In the above reaction oxygen from the water combines with carbon from the methane to form carbon dioxide. All the hydrogen that was part of both the methane and water is separated. This is known as "Steam Methane Reforming". It is widely used in industry to manufacture hydrogen from natural gas.

The carbon dioxide produced in the above reaction may be liquefied in Japan and returned to Australia on the empty LNG ships that delivered the methane.

This allows the carbon dioxide to be re-used indefinitely in Australia to convert hydrogen to methane for shipping to Japan using existing natural gas pipelines, LNG terminals and tankers.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Coal burns up research millions

If an industry needs to separate CO2 from different sources the first place to look is existing suppliers and projects that use their technology.

Reinventing the Wheel

Reinventing the wheel
"...the investment in research programs will yield industry
applicable technologies and methodologies in the near term."

Australian governments are spending millions to find out how to separate CO2 from different sources. This process is commonly referred to as "reinventing the wheel".

Why this is so remains an unexplained mystery.

"...our capture research has also made progress on several fronts. CO2CRC won a competitive $1.2 million grant from the NSW government’s Coal Innovation Fund to develop cost-effective carbon capture technology at the Vales Point power station in NSW. The plant has been relocated from the closed Hazelwood power station in Victoria to Vales Point and is currently being modified to use both solvent and membrane technologies. The funding enables us to combine the advantages of both solvent absorption and membrane gas separation methods of capturing CO2, while overcoming the drawbacks of both technologies.

Capture projects were also significantly enhanced in October when we installed our proprietary capture skid at the Otway National Research Facility. The capture plant has been designed for use in offshore natural gas applications, with varying percentages of CO2 content. It has been made to be robust, small and efficient, and will also applicable to different capture requirements in the future.

These developments are the result of our deep commitment to cutting-edge research. In 2016-17 we extended our research base through the opening of several new Australian CCS Research Laboratories Network (CCSNet) facilities.

In September 2016, we opened new capture, CCS modelling, and storage laboratories at The University of Melbourne.

The $7.56 million facility was opened just 12 days after the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon Darren Chester MP, opened CCSNet’s $2.3 million analytical laboratory at Federation University.

And, in November, the Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, opened our $5.04 million storage research facilities at the Australian National University.

As CCS research gains momentum, we also remain focussed on ensuring government and key decision makers understand the value that CCS has to Australian emissions reduction and national energy security. Our detailed and costed retrofit studies, submissions to government and presentations to senior decision makers were well received by governments.

With the commitment from staff, the collaboration of our research partners and the support of our members and the community, CO2CRC has reached a pivotal point where the investment in research programs will yield industry applicable technologies and methodologies in the near term. Thank you for sharing our vision for CCS.

Tania Constable
Chief Executive Officer
CO2CRC Annual Report 2016/17