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    Mongabay, a leading resource for news and perspectives on environmental and conservation issues related to the tropics, has launched Tropical Conservation Science - a new, open access academic e-journal. It will cover a wide variety of scientific and social studies on tropical ecosystems, their biodiversity and the threats posed to them. Tropical Conservation Science - March 8, 2008.

    At the 148th Meeting of the OPEC Conference, the oil exporting cartel decided to leave its production level unchanged, sending crude prices spiralling to new records (above $104). OPEC "observed that the market is well-supplied, with current commercial oil stocks standing above their five-year average. The Conference further noted, with concern, that the current price environment does not reflect market fundamentals, as crude oil prices are being strongly influenced by the weakness in the US dollar, rising inflation and significant flow of funds into the commodities market." OPEC - March 5, 2008.

    Kyushu University (Japan) is establishing what it says will be the world’s first graduate program in hydrogen energy technologies. The new master’s program for hydrogen engineering is to be offered at the university’s new Ito campus in Fukuoka Prefecture. Lectures will cover such topics as hydrogen energy and developing the fuel cells needed to convert hydrogen into heat or electricity. Of all the renewable pathways to produce hydrogen, bio-hydrogen based on the gasification of biomass is by far both the most efficient, cost-effective and cleanest. Fuel Cell Works - March 3, 2008.

    An entrepreneur in Ivory Coast has developed a project to establish a network of Miscanthus giganteus farms aimed at producing biomass for use in power generation. In a first phase, the goal is to grow the crop on 200 hectares, after which expansion will start. The project is in an advanced stage, but the entrepreneur still seeks partners and investors. The plantation is to be located in an agro-ecological zone qualified as highly suitable for the grass species. Contact us - March 3, 2008.

    A 7.1MW biomass power plant to be built on the Haiwaiian island of Kaua‘i has received approval from the local Planning Commission. The plant, owned and operated by Green Energy Hawaii, will use albizia trees, a hardy species that grows in poor soil on rainfall alone. The renewable power plant will meet 10 percent of the island's energy needs. Kauai World - February 27, 2008.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Coal-generated CO2 captured in Australia - further steps towards carbon-negative bioenergy

In a first for Australia, carbon dioxide has been captured from power station flue gases in a post-combustion-capture (PCC) pilot plant at Loy Yang Power Station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. The development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies is important because it will allow the generation of carbon-negative energy in the future. Carbon-negative or 'negative emissions' energy is obtained when biomass instead of coal is used in a power plant and its CO2 captured and sequestered. CCS techniques for coal are similar to those for biomass, which is why we track developments in both sectors.

Carbon-negative energy, that is bio-energy with carbon storage (BECS) is the most radically green type of energy available, because it allows humanity to actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere. And according to leading scientists, like NASA's Dr James Hansen, this is exactly what we should be aiming for. He calls for a reduction of atmospheric CO2 levels to 350ppm. Biomass coupled to CCS is one of the key technologies needed to achieve this goal (previous post). Carbon-neutral technologies like wind, solar, or hydropower are never able to reduce emissions beyond zero.

According to the Bellona Foundation's strong low carbon scenario, recently outlined in its climate report, carbon-negative bioenergy plays the single biggest role in reducing emissions. In the Bellona Scenario, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, negative emissions energy reduces twice as much CO2 than all other conventional renewables combined (see graph, click to enlarge).

But in order to make negative emissions energy work, researchers must find efficient ways to capture carbon. This can be done either before the fuel is combusted (pre-combustion capture), during (oxyfuel combustion), or after the process (post-combustion capture). The important trials in Australia are based on capturing CO2 from coal using the post-combustion capture technique.

The PCC technique used in the trial is based on a liquid to capture CO2 from power station flue gases and can potentially reduce CO2 emissions from existing and future coal-fired power stations by more than 85 per cent.
Coal is the primary fuel for over 80 percent of Australia’s current power supply – it’s what turns the lights on in most homes – so we need to find ways to make it a cleaner energy source. This is the first time anyone in the Southern Hemisphere has captured CO2 using the PCC process at a power station and we are thrilled we’ve been able to prove this technology. - Dr David Brockway, CSIRO Energy Technology Chief
The 10.5 metre-high pilot plant is designed to capture up to 1000 tonnes of CO2 per annum from the power station’s exhaust-gas flues. Future trials will involve the use of a range of different CO2-capture liquids.

CSIRO is undertaking similar PCC research at Munmorah near NSW and Beijing, China, and is negotiating the installation of another pilot plant at a Queensland site:
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Climate change is a key issue for Australia and we’re delighted to be part of finding a solution to this global challenge. We’re pleased to be working with CSIRO to identify ways to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector. - Ian Nethercote, Loy Yang Power Chief Executive

According to Dr Brockway, the milestone followed the Garnaut Report’s recognition that Australia has an important role to play in developing low emission coal technologies such as PCC. The Garnaut Report is Australia's version of the 'Stern Review'.

The project is part of the Latrobe Valley Post Combustion Capture Project – a joint collaboration between Loy Yang Power, International Power Hazelwood, government and researchers from CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship and the CO2CRC (including Monash and Melbourne Universities). The Loy Yang component of the project is supported by the Victorian Government for A$2.5million through the Energy Technology Innovation Strategy.

CSIRO initiated the National Research Flagships to provide science-based solutions in response to Australia’s major research challenges and opportunities. The nine Flagships form multidisciplinary teams with industry and the research community to deliver impact and benefits for Australia.

Image: The PCC pilot rig at Loy Yang Power Station. Credit: CSIRO.


CSIRO: Coal-generated CO2 captured in Australia – a first - July 9, 2008.

Biopact: Carbon-negative bioenergy making headway, at last - June 06, 2008

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