OPINION: Coal abatement technologies – the party is just getting started

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Green groups and conservationists are so focused on reaching net zero by cutting all coal and gas from the energy mix that they are ignoring the fact that we can have both.

We can still have royalties (heading for over $5 billion in Queensland alone for FY22/23), lower energy prices, energy security and thriving regional communities – if they would take a breath and listen to what more balanced industry experts have been saying. As the girl from that iconic Old El Paso ad would say, “Why don’t we have both?” 

Coal abatement focuses on ways to reduce the atmospheric carbon produced throughout the entire coal mining value chain – from pit to port to factory to product, and then reuse and recycling. It’s a vibrant, innovative and rapidly growing field with tested and potential technologies that are coal industry game-changers.

The unequivocal message is that coal is here to stay for the foreseeable future, as a critical component of a just energy transition. It will remain a high-demand fuel for lives and industries in developing and emerging economies, but also as a necessary part of a reliable, affordable energy mix in almost every country.

Abatement projects recognise that yes, we can have our cake and eat it too! These projects are not so much about replacing coal (the world’s cheapest and most reliable energy source) but they focus on reducing the carbon footprint of coal – in some cases, proving reductions of more than 90%.

Here’s some examples of ‘clean technologies’ already in play internationally and locally:

In Japan, JERA, a major thermal power generation company, has successfully concluded an ammonia co-firing pilot test and will begin a full-scale demonstration project during 2023 at its Hekinan power plant. Clean ammonia, which will produce at least 60% lower carbon emissions than conventionally produced ammonia, will be co-fired with coal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the facility. The project is proving to be a strong contender for the country’s first step towards rapid, affordable and sustainable decarbonisation. This is only one of many research and development projects underway with Japan strongly focused on their emission goals – including abated coal from Australian mines.

Back in Queensland, QPM Energy (QPME) announced a strategic partnership in mid-February with Carbon Logica to further extend the development of the northern Bowen Basin Carbon Abatement Hub, a gas supply chain for the TECH Project and other industrial users. The Hub will capture waste methane from underground coal mines in the region. This partnership will benefit the entire value chain and boost industrial growth in northern Queensland.

Further south, Glencore’s CTSCo project – to capture carbon from a power station and sustainably and permanently store it in their tenement in the Surat Basin – has just reached the end of its public submission period. The initial project is a small-scale carbon dioxide injection testing via an injection well deep into rock formations more than two kilometres below the surface. If all goes to plan, it will pave the way to store large CO2 volumes in the area.

There’s so much that can be done in the coal abatement space, and we’ve only dipped our toes in the water in terms of what needs to be done to meet the ambitious 2050 targets. And don’t even get me started on the benefits of nuclear – that’s a column for another day.

QATCF 12.1 Bowen Logo

Jodie Currie

Director, Bowen Basin Mining Club

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