PERTH (miningweekly.com) – A new report by the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) has noted that Australia’s thermal coal industry holds a number of key advantages over competition in the international export market, which could assist in securing the resource future in a low-carbon economy.
In its report' Australian Export Thermal Coal', the MCA notes that Australia is the world’s second largest exporter of thermal coal, behind Indonesia, having exported some 213-million tonnes in 2019/20 worth around A$20-billion.
Australia’s thermal coal export industry has the advantage of highly productive and advanced technology, a stable production environment, world-class infrastructure, relative proximity to key markets and a track record of reliable supply.
“In addition, Australian thermal coal has several quality advantages over competitor coals in the export market. These advantages are conferred by geology, but are enhanced by the modern mining and processing technologies used in the Australian industry,” the report states.
Australian thermal coal qualities include a higher rank and the higher delivered specific energy of Australian coals, enabling less coal to be burnt per kilowatt hour of power station output and lower levels of carbon emissions than from lower quality coals, as well as its superior combustion properties and boiler efficiency because of lower moisture, moderate ash, higher ash fusion temperature and satisfactory fuel ratio.
Furthermore, Australian thermal coal offers lower levels of sulphur and trace element contents resulting in reduced power utility flue gas emission levels and wastewater contamination.
The report notes the higher specific energy (SE) of Australian coal at 25 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg) compared to Indonesian coal at 19.4 MJ/kg. This means that for the same heat input into a given power station, fewer tonnes of the higher SE Australian coal are required than for lower SE coal.
“The accelerated deployment of existing low emissions technologies and greater research and development of new and emerging technologies will be required to ensure the world is able to achieve the emissions reduction goals of the Paris Agreement,” the MCA said.
As noted in the recent MCA Climate Action Plan progress report, Australia’s minerals industry is also making strong progress on reducing emissions as part of a decarbonised future through electrification, on-site use of renewable energy and battery storage and other technologies.
The industry body noted that these quality features were important in sustaining demand for Australian thermal coal while supporting jobs and investment, especially in regional New South Wales and Queensland, and better environmental and emissions outcomes for end-users.
“New, modern power generation plants are around 25% more efficient in coal use than older plants and can further reduce emissions by integrating with carbon capture and storage.
“Investment in reducing emissions from the use of thermal coal in Australia includes an agreement between Glencore and China Huaneng to use carbon capture technology at the Millmerran coal-fired power station in Queensland, a project supported by Low Emission Technology Australia and the Australian coal industry.”
The MCA noted that the federal government’s additional support of up to A$5-million announced this week would lend further impetus to this important project which has the potential to store large quantities of carbon from a range of Queensland’s emissions intensive industries.