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Coal producer invests in major CO2 storage pilot

9 January 2006

Coal producer invests in major project to pilot CO2 storage

Coal producer Solid Energy is a founding shareholder, with several Australian coal, oil and gas majors, in a new company that will operate Australasia’s first project to trial carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration (storage) technology.

Leading Australian research group, the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC) announced today that the pilot research project, to be operated by the new company, will start later this year at a cost of around A$30 million, involving approximately 40 Australian and overseas researchers.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas produced from fossil fuel combustion including combustion from thermal power generation, transport and industrial activities. The project is designed to demonstrate that CO2 capture and storage is a viable, safe and secure option for greenhouse gas abatement. It will test the deep underground geological storage (geosequestration) of CO2 in a location in Western Victoria.

A few similar projects exist in the North Hemisphere, however this pilot project will be the first to geologically store and monitor the CO2 before, during and after its injection in deep geological formations. The project will simulate the capture of CO2 from a power station, transport the CO2 several kilometres by pipeline and store it about 2 km beneath the Earth’s surface. The behaviour of the stored CO2 will be monitored using sophisticated techniques that can detect and track the gas in deep geological formations.

Forty percent of the world’s energy comes from coal. New Zealand is dependent on coal - for electricity from Huntly Power Station, and for energy at hundreds of industrial and commercial sites throughout the country.

Solid Energy Chief Executive Officer, Dr Don Elder says: “We are committed to a range of research and practical projects to reduce the environmental impacts of coal use to allow it to continue to support New Zealand’s economic prosperity in a sustainable manner. Our participation in this international landmark project, including our contribution of approximately NZ$2 million to the overall CO2CRC programme, is a cornerstone of this commitment.”

New Zealand has vast opportunities for underground storage of CO2, including in depleted gas reservoirs and in deep coal seams.

Solid Energy Research Manager, Dr Tim Moore, says: “CO2 occurs naturally in the same types of rock formations we are targeting for geosequestration. These natural situations help us understand how CO2 will behave when stored underground.

“It is also likely that CO2 can be very effectively stored in many of our deep, unmineable coal seams. CO2 is compressed and injected into the rock layers or coal seams, and in many cases helps to displace natural gas which can be captured and used at the same time. Eventually the CO2 storage site is sealed and a monitoring system is set up.

“The stability of storing CO2 in this manner may even improve as the CO2 tends to go into solution in formation water over time rather than break back into a gas. Therefore, as time progresses, it becomes even more stable”.

Solid Energy believes this storage technology has huge potential to reduce New Zealand’s future greenhouse emissions.

Solid Energy is a member of the CO2CRC programme which has funding of about A$140 million over seven years. CO2CRC collaborates with leading international carbon capture and storage experts to conduct research into CO2 geosequestration. The centre is developing a wide range of methods to capture and store CO2 and is currently investigating geological attributes of various potential storage sites in Australia and New Zealand.


ENDS

Note to Editors
General information on geosequestration and CO2CRC and its collaborating organisations can be found at www.co2crc.com.au . A graphic of the research project can be downloaded for publication from www.co2crc.com.au/imagelibrary.

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