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NZ Coal ‘Well-Suited’ To New Technologies

Researchers have discovered New Zealand coal is ideal for new, clean-burning technologies and other new uses for coal that have been developed in recent years.

Research carried out by CRL Energy Ltd and funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology shows that New Zealand coal is a potential source of hydrogen, which is widely expected to be the clean fuel of the future. Research manager Dr Tony Clemens says that during the past 15 years, new technologies to get energy from coal have resulted in much cleaner production.

He says one process entails a “fluidised bed” gasifier where small particles of coal on a bed are fed with air and steam through a perforated plate underneath and they float like bubbles. Dr Clemens says it’s very effective and very clean and you get a lot of energy from a small amount of coal.

CRL Energy has been matching New Zealand’s main coal types to the new technologies and the results show that many New Zealand coals are ideal.

Researchers have also found that if the conditions inside the gasifier are right, methane and carbon monoxide can be almost eliminated, leaving mainly hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

“There are ways to separate out and capture the carbon dioxide, so in effect you have coal in and hydrogen out. If, as many believe, hydrogen is to be the fuel of the future, then this could be one way to produce it,” Dr Clemens says.

The research, which has been conducted on behalf of the coal industry, has looked for new and cleaner ways of using coal and will be important for the environment, coal producers, users and exporters.

According to Dr Clemens, with known reserves of coal reserves estimated at more than 8 billion tonnes and the present use of less then 4 million tonnes annually, we have enough coal to last New Zealand for a long time yet.

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