(EnergyAsia, January 3 2012, Thursday) — The Australian coal industry has hailed the launch of what it calls the country’s first “’clean coal” carbon capture plant.

The A$200-million callide oxyfuel demonstration plant is said to trap greenhouse gas generated by CS Energy’s Callide A coal-fired power station in Biloela in central Queensland. (US$1=A$0.95).

The Australian Coal Association (ACA) has described the project as a vitally important step towards developing low emissions coal technology in Australia.

The project is a joint venture between CS Energy, Australian Coal Association (ACA) Low Emission Technologies (ACALET), Xstrata Coal, Schlumberger, and three Japanese companies, J-POWER, Mitsui & Co Ltd and IHI Corporation.

Backed by A$50 million grant from the Australian government under the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund, the project has also received financial support from the Queensland and Japanese governments and technical support from JCOAL.

According to the ACA, the Australian coal industry initially committed A$67.9 million through its COAL21 Fund, but will increase that by A$9 million to help sustain the project into 2014.

ACA deputy CEO Greg Sullivan said the project is a landmark joint initiative between the governments and private sectors of Australia and Japan to develop clean coal technology to reduce emissions from power generation.

“The project is hugely significant because it is a first-of-kind demonstration project, underlining the potential for new build and retro-fitting existing power stations with carbon capture technology in Australian conditions using Australian coal,” said Mr Sullivan.

“Retrofitting the global, fossil-fuelled power station fleet will be essential if the world is to materially reduce its greenhouse gas trajectory.”

Citing the International Energy Agency (IEA), the ACA said the world now has installed coal-fired generation capacity of around 1.6 million megawatts (MW), with more than 20% of this under five years of age and more than half younger than 20 years.

The World Resources Institute estimates that another 1,199 new coal-fired plants, with a total installed capacity of more than 1.4 million MW, are being proposed across 59 countries.

“To put this in perspective, Australia has around 30,000 MW of coal-fired generation capacity providing three-quarters of our electricity needs.

“The reality is that coal will continue to play a major role in energy generation for decades, which is why any meaningful response to climate change must address emissions from the use of coal. Projects like Callide Oxyfuel are an essential piece of the puzzle,” said Mr Sullivan.

“According to the IEA, broad deployment of CCS could deliver 20% of the emissions reductions needed to stabilize CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and avoid the worst impacts of climate change by 2050. The IEA is clear that without CCS, the costs of achieving these reductions would be 70% higher.”