11 October 2006

University of Queensland researchers are discovering the commercial benefits of burying environmentally harmful carbon dioxide (CO2) gases underground.

Using the process of geosequestration – where CO2 gas produced from industry is captured and stored in deep coal seams rather than released into the atmosphere – researchers from UQ’s Energy & Environment Engineering group have almost halved the cost of capture and storage.

Group leader Professor Victor Rudolph said the reductions in cost were due to the commercial value of the methane that was extracted from the coal seam , which the CO2 replaced.

“Geosequestration of CO2 into deep coal seams can reduce the net cost of capture and storage in Queensland by some 46%,” Professor Rudolph said.

“The process reduces the costs down to $25/tonne of CO2 avoided, when applied to a large-scale 1400 MW coal-fired power plant.”

Principal researcher Dr Paul Massarotto said the cost reduction technology was part of a research project nearing completion and supported by an ARC-Linkage grant and six Australian and international organisations.

He said the group is now proposing a joint project with Germany’s leading research organisation into CO2 adsorption in coal, the RWTH Aachen University of North Rhine-Westfalia.

“The aim is to investigate further technology improvements by injection of the whole flue gas stream, composed of some 13% CO2 and 87% N2, into deep coal seams in Queensland and North Germany and abandoned underground coal mines of North Rhine-Westfalia,” Dr Massarotto said.

“In Queensland, both the Surat Basin-Walloons and the Bowen Basin-Rangal & Bandana coal measures will be investigated for this potentially-optimum geosequestration path, as it can do away with the capture costs which are some 75% to 80% of a total project, partly replaced by higher compression costs.”

He said Queensland had a vibrant coalseam gas industry that has already defined vast resources with a current potential to sequester over 3.7 Giga tonnes of CO2.

“This sequestration capacity is equivalent to over 56 years of CO2 emissions from Queensland’s current and future planned coal-fired power plants to 2020,” he said.

Media inquiries: Professor Victor Rudolph (07 3365 4171, victor@cheque.uq.edu.au) or Dr Paul Massarotto (07 3365 4152, paulm@cheque.uq.edu.au).