4 April 2000

Industrial waste from Japan could hold the key to solving some of Australia's most pressing environmental problems.

Researchers from The University of Queensland are looking at ways that waste from Japanese coal power stations can be exported to Australia and used for soil reclamation and large scale forestry projects.

Associate Professors Victor Rudolph and Max Lu from UQ's Chemical Engineering Department are proposing to use a by-product of cleaning sulphur dioxide from coal power station stack gases known as flue gas desulphurization or FDG gypsum.

"Queensland exports a lot of coal to Japan, and the idea is to fill the empty ships returning to Australia with something that Japan doesn't need, but that can remediate poor quality soils in Australia," said Professor Rudolph.

"Japan produces more than five million tonnes a year of this product, with the majority being stacked or landfilled", he said.

FDG gypsum can be used to treat degraded, salt affected soils and to assist in land reclamation bringing significant benefits to Australia's agricultural and forestry sectors.

It could also create spin-off industries from the reclamation of marginal or unusable land and possible economic returns for investors in forestry products.

Furthermore, the proposal could help Australia and Japan cut back their greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Kyoto Global Climate Change Convention.

By assisting in the planting of trees, Japanese power companies may be able to gain credit for creating a ?carbon sink' which absorbs greenhouse gas emissions.

This would reduce the greenhouse benefit in Japanese power companies switching from coal to natural gas and help to secure a major Australian commodity export market.

A delegation of Japanese power industry officials is visiting The University of Queensland this week to examine this three year, $300,000 trial.
Representatives of the Hokuriku Electric Power Company and CRIEPI, the Japanese power industry Central research Institute, will visit the half hectare trial site at UQ Gatton today and tomorrow (April 4 and 5).

For more information contact Associate Professor Victor Rudolph on 07 3365 4171 or 0401 145997, or Peter McCutcheon, UQ Communications, on 07 3365 1088 or 0413 380012.

Enquiries can also be directed to communications@mailbox.uq.edu.au