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Solid Energy delivers new energy for New Zealand

Solid Energy delivers new energy for New Zealand

Electricity from coal seam gas now on the national grid

New Zealand has a new source of electricity following the connection to the national grid of a 1MW generator driven by coal seam gas from Solid Energy’s pilot field near Huntly in the Waikato.

Speaking today at Solid Energy’s Annual Meeting in Auckland, Chief Executive Officer, Dr Don Elder says that in a first for New Zealand, coal seam gas is now producing enough electricity for 500 to 800 homes, using one of the world’s cleanest forms of thermal energy.

“Gas from the Huntly wells contains only 1% CO2 and has 98% energy-rich methane. That means the gas has a lower carbon footprint than conventionally-produced natural gas, which up until now was New Zealand’s cleanest thermal power,” he says.

The on-site generator is currently fed by four wells taking gas from a 32 hectare section of the coalfield. Gas flow from this small pilot has the potential to power as many as 1000 homes but it is not yet known if the local network connection can accept that much electricity.

“This energy is being generated in a rural environment, surrounded by cattle – it’s not the sort of place where you’d expect to be producing power – but we’re working with WEL Networks to increase what we can put onto the grid from that location,” Dr Elder says.

“We’re happy that following extensive research and development, we’re now able to offer New Zealand a new form of energy.”

The pilot coal seam gas field was developed through a joint venture between Solid Energy and USA oil and gas company, Resource Development Technologies.

The joint venture company, Coal Bed Methane Ltd, undertook three years of exploration and assessment before generating electricity. Low pressure pipes take the gas from the well heads to an onsite gas generator which is connected to the grid via overhead power lines.

Coal seam gas can be used for industrial energy, electricity generation and could be injected into gas transmission systems to supplement gas resources. It could also be a top quality gas feedstock for other uses.

Solid Energy continues to assess the commercial viability of the wider coalfield at North Huntly and expects to make a decision on the next stage of field development within the next few months.

Coal seam gas provides 15-20% of gas supply in the United States and Australia’s eastern states, with the figure climbing to 70% in Queensland.

“If New Zealand can continue to develop its coal seam gas reserves, they could meet up to 10% of the country’s gas demand,” Dr Elder says.


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