2 July 2004

A by-product from the burning of coal could help fix Australia’s soil sodicity and salinity problems and also assist in mitigating greenhouse emissions, according to University of Queensland (UQ) postgraduate student Cameron Wearing.

Reporting the findings of a four year trial today, Mr Wearing said native trees were now successfully established in what had been a barren, salt-infested paddock prior to reclamation with a by-product from coal-fired power generation called Flue Gas Desulphurization (FGD) Gypsum.

“This is truly a win, win, win solution,” Mr Wearing said.

“Sulphur emissions from coal-fired power stations in Japan are reduced by producing FGD Gypsum, which can then be used to reclaim sodic and salt affected land. In the process, we can establish forests that accumulate carbon emissions that would otherwise contribute to global warming.”

Four members of Japan’s Central Research Institute of the Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI) today visited UQ’s Gatton campus and the nearby farm where the research is being conducted, hailing the project’s success.

“We are very pleased with the quality of our ongoing collaboration with the University of Queensland,” said Dr Kato, Senior Vice-President of CRIEPI.

“This project represents an important part of the research of both CRIEPI and Hokuriku Electric Power Company (HEPCO) in their overall approach to addressing environmental stewardship obligations.”

Based on the trial results so far, both foreign and domestic firms could soon be employing the technology to earn valuable carbon credits from some of Australia’s most degraded land areas.

In a familiar scenario for many areas, the 8,000m2 trial site was originally productive farmland forced into abandonment by the ravages of soil sodicity and salinity. However, since the project started in late 2000, the site has been transformed into a showcase for soil reclamation and further cooperation between agriculture and industry in addressing environmental problems.

“In less than four years the site has gone from being nothing more than a salt pad to now growing over 1,000 trees, the majority of which are over 4 metres tall,” Mr Wearing said.

“The results are incredibly encouraging and raise the prospect of industry and agriculture working in partnership to reclaim thousands of hectares of degraded Australian soils and tackle global warming.”

Due to the success of the first stage of the research project, CRIEPI and HEPCO reaffirmed their commitment with further funding in 2003. Today’s high profile visit to UQ Gatton is further confirmation of the successful collaboration between the two nations.

More information: Professor Victor Rudolph (Project Supervisor), (07) 3365 4171 or 0409.274.993
Brad Henderson, Marketing Coordinator, Faculty of NRAVS, (07) 5460 1229 or 0409.265.587