26 February, 2017
Courtesy of the AFR
Former long-serving Queensland premier Peter Beattie said Australia would be “crazy” not to invest in clean coal technology despite the high-profile failure of the $4 billion ZeroGen coal gasification and carbon capture and storage project in central Queensland which he championed when he was in office.
While the current Palaszczuk government in Queensland has committed to moving away from coal towards renewable power, Mr Beattie said carbon capture and storage projects as well as “clean coal” technologies such as super critical power stations had to be part of the mix.
“The reality of all this is there is going to be a transitional period, it just makes sense to clean up coal while in that transition,” Mr Beattie said in an interview with The Australian Financial Review.
“All the stuff that the Greens argue is bullshit, you’re not going to have renewables tomorrow that are going to provide all we need in terms of base load power.”
Mr Beattie, who retired from politics in 2007, said he believed there was a strong future for carbon capture and storage projects in Australia despite the ZeroGen project – a 530 megawatt combined coal gasification project with carbon capture and storage – being abandoned in 2011 before the pilot project was complete.
“ZeroGen went bad for a whole lot of reasons and it had very little to do with technology. I think a lot of it had to do with poor management,” he said.
“We’re crazy if we don’t focus on clean coal technology as well as renewables. It should not be a case of one or the other. I think there is a whole lot of technologies, not just CCS.”
Australia had lost 10 years in “clean coal” technologies as interest waned in projects globally, he said.
Mr Beattie’s position puts him at odds with the current Labor government in Queensland which said it had no plans to back any new coal-fired power stations in the state as it attempts to move from 7 per cent renewables to 50 per cent in the next 13 years.
Energy Minister Mark Bailey said Queensland had been at the forefront of investigating carbon capture and storage but it was too expensive.
“Unfortunately, as we saw with the ZeroGen project, the costs of developing an integrated coal-fired power plant with carbon capture and storage was cost prohibitive,” he said.
ZeroGen, which had been funded by the state government ($116 million), the Commonwealth ($43 million) and the coal industry ($50 million), was supposed to be an integrated gasification combined cycle plant which would have the capacity to capture 60 million tonnes of carbon over the lifetime of the project.
But the project never really got off the ground, mostly due to issues surrounding cost and the failure to find a place to bury the carbon, according to energy consultant and former Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche.
“This IGCC technology already exists in America, China and Japan so there’s nothing to be gained for Australia spending a truckload of money demonstrating a technology that other countries have already proved,” Mr Roche said.
“The coal industry’s focus has shifted to trying to ensure we found in Australia commercial scale sites for geo-sequestration. We have got all the technology to produce the streams of CO2 to be captured and stored but we didn’t have anywhere to store large quantities of carbon.”
The black coal industry is funding clean coal technology solutions via a levy on producers. This includes a demonstration project in the Surat Basin to look at the long-term prospects of burying carbon. The project last year received a $8.8 million grant from the federal government to help it move towards final investment decision and construction.
Other options include bio-sequestration where carbon is put into algae ponds which is then converted into a hydrogen-based fuel
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg earlier this month backed clean coal and CCS projects as a way to ensure coal remains a dominant fuel source for years to come.
The Turnbull government is considering changing the guidelines for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation which is currently banned from funding CCS – an amendment that was added by the Greens – and to possibly back next-generation coal projects.
The Coalition is also looking at using the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund to build a new coal-fired power station in north Queensland as a way to kick-start economic activity. There is currently no base-load power station north of Rockhampton in central Queensland.