Experts douse clean coal dream
A major energy generator says there will not be any new coal power stations built in Australia.
“It would surprise me greatly if there were ever any more coal-fired technology built in Australia,” CS Energy chief Martin Moore told the ABC this week.
The Queensland Government-owned company has “no intention” of building so-called ‘clean coal’ plants, despite the Prime Minister persistent lobbying in recent weeks.
Malcolm Turnbull has changed his view over the decade since he said climate change “will mean that by mid-century all or almost all of the world’s electricity will have to come from zero or near-zero emission sources”.
Now, the Prime Minister says Australia “will need more synchronous baseload power and as Australia is a big exporter we need to show we are using state-of-the-art, clean, coal-fired technology”.
‘Clean coal’ plants – otherwise known as ultra super-critical power stations – are gaining popularity in Asia.
CS Energy produces about a third of Queensland's electricity (and some for NSW too) from two of Australia’s most advanced coal-fired generators - the super-critical Kogan Creek and Callide C plants.
While the company says the ultra-super-critical technology offers up to a 37 per cent improvement on the dirtiest brown coal stations, its advantages are pretty minimal compared with super-critical stations.
“It's not game-changing,” Mr Moore said.
“You've still got to think that ultra super-critical produces twice the emissions of gas-fired technology.”
He doubts the multi-billion-dollar stations would be viable even with government subsidies.
“These assets have a plant life roughly of 40 years, so it's a very very big long-term bet.
“I think it would be a very courageous board that would invest in coal-fired technology in Australia.”
The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) insists they are good idea.
“I think we need to treat some of that commentary with a grain of salt,” MCA chief Brendan Pearson said.
“The bottom line is that investment banks like Morgan Stanley have highlighted the benefits of this technology and said it's cost effective.
“They're being built all around Asia … so I think it's logical provided our policy settings are sensible that this will play a part in the future.”
CS Energy does not have a lot of faith in carbon capture and storage technologies either, despite running a successful trial of the technology two years ago at one of its Queensland plants.
“It's possible to retrofit this to existing coal-fired plants but commercially the numbers don't stack up,” he said.
“I think that technology may well be bypassed.”
The International Energy Agency says only 15 carbon capture and storage facilities are operating commercially worldwide.