9 July 2008

University of Queensland researchers are taking their expertise in dealing with carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to China.

Dr Paul Massarotto, a Principal Research Fellow in Energy & Environment with UQ’s School of Engineering, said China is currently building some 100 coal-fired power plants a year, which will discharge as much greenhouse gas as Australia’s entire annual emissions.

But research being conducted by Dr Massarotto and his colleagues into CO2 geosequestration – capturing greenhouse gas emissions and pumping them into underground coal seams – could help deal with this problem.

“We believe the world’s economy would be better off by financing commercial CO2 geosequestration projects in developing countries like China, where capital and operating costs per tonne of CO2 sequestered are only 60% of the costs in Australia, Europe and North America,” Dr Massarotto said.

“We have done the numbers for a pilot project to be located in China, showing 40% cost reductions are indeed achievable today, with big savings for drilling and CO2 costs and good returns for extra methane which is produced as a by-product of the CO2 geosequestration process.

“By starting early testing of the coal based CO2 geosequestration technology developed at UQ, and with strong financial support from international institutions and industry, the full commercialisation of this technology in China could be as near as five to 10 years away.”

He said China had just passed the USA as the largest greenhouse gas emitting country in the world and more needed to be done to help deal with the problem.

“The best way forward for China and the world is to attack CO2 emissions where costs per tonne of reduction are the lowest in the world,” he said.

“This approach will be a win-win for both the developing countries and the industrialised developed world.”

The UQ team, consisting also of Professor Victor Rudolph of Engineering, Associate Professor Sue Golding of Earth Sciences and Dr Geoff Wang of Engineering, held seminars in XuZhou, Jiaosuo, JinCheng and Xi’an with collaborating academics from China University of Mining & Technology and Xi’an Jiaotong University, and with commercial CBM companies.

The UQ and Chinese academic research collaborators have agreed to start developing an action plan around this vision, including plans for the first RD&D pilot project, probably to be located in the central China coal-rich provinces of Shanxi or Henan.

The UQ team will also be starting a new ARC-Linkage research project shortly, entitled Flue Gas and CO2 Geosequestration in Surat and Bowen Basin Coals, with the help of Australian companies Origin Energy, Stanwell and Santos.

Media: Professor Victor Rudolph (+61 7 3365 4171; v.rudolph@uq.edu.au), Dr Massarotto (+61 7 3365 4152; uqpmassa@uq.edu.au) or Andrew Dunne at UQ Communications (+61 7 3365 2802 or 0433 364 181).