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Monday, July 13, 2015

The coal industry needs better advice from business analysts and chemists

While the coal industry invests in political lobbyists and advertising agencies its future grows dim.

Sales volume is not a measure of success

Producing ever increasing volumes of any commodity at steadily falling prices is a well-trodden path to oblivion. The Australian fine merino wool industry has "been there, done that."

Australian thermal coal price

Peabody Energy share price chart

Innovation that reduces efficiency is misguided

"Leading edge" super-critical coal-fired power stations are far less efficient than modern gas-fired power stations. This technology is obsolete having been overtaken by rival technologies.

How an industry can lift the return per kilogram of carbon

To remain viable an industry needs innovation that lifts the return per unit of production. Coal gasification is a step in this process. The energy market is not the only game in town.

Farming needs stable supplies of fertiliser, one of which is urea. Urea is manufactured from carbon dioxide, sells for around $350 per tonne and has 200 kilograms of carbon in each tonne (ref: Chemical Portal).

Contrast this with thermal coal that sells for around $80 per tonne and has 610 kilograms of carbon in each tonne (ref: Coal conversion statistics.)

Urea price per tonne chart

Urea is made from carbon dioxide

The coal industry doesn't appreciate the commercial potential of carbon dioxide.

Algae can manufacture 1,000 kilograms of edible oil that contains about 750 kilograms of carbon from water, carbon dioxide and sunlight. Algae consume 2.75 tonnes of carbon dioxide to make a tonne of edible oil. Prices range from $1,000 to $5,000 per tonne.
"Nutraceuticals are various products that range from isolated nutrients, dietary supplements and herbal products, to processed foods and beverages. With the correct blend of enriched nutrients using custom selected micro-algae as a source, Algae.Tec is able to deliver specialty high value oils, antioxidant-rich products and supplements, as well as edible oils and pigments, which provide a variety of health benefits. This approach is a sustainable alternative to current feedstock options, for items such as Omega-3s, which are derived from static fish supplies. The Algae.Tec advantage provides both a quality and consistent product that meets the needs of many nutraceutical applications." (Source: Algae.Tec website)

Edible oil price chart