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CSIRO and partners to test Direct Injection Carbon Engine to reduce brown coal emissions by up to 50%

28 April 2014

CSIRO (Australia’s national science agency) and its industry partners plan to conduct a A$1-million (US$930,000) trial of the Direct Injection Carbon Engine (DICE) in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley—the second largest and lowest-cost brown coal resource in the world—with the aim of reducing emissions from brown coal-generated electricity by 50% compared to current technology.

DICE involves converting coal or biomass into a water-based slurry (called micronised refined carbon, MRC) that is directly injected into a large, specially adapted diesel engine. The fuel burns to produce intense temperature and pressure in the engine, which provides highly efficient power to turn electrical generators.

Fuel_to_engine

MRC has been produced from a range of solid carbon-based fuels, including hydrothermally treated brown coals, de-ashed black coals, and chars and algal matter (blended). The process has very high conversion efficiency >97% (LCA); he fuel choice determines the carbon footprint.

CSIRO notes that the idea of using a coal engine to generate electricity is not new; it was successfully investigated in the US some 20 years ago for use in diesel locomotives before development was terminated by persistently low oil prices. CSIRO has focused on more cost-effective fuel production for much larger engines, potentially enabling DICE to become a viable option for meeting a wide range of electricity generation applications.

An existing laboratory scale prototype engine will trial fuel based on Victorian brown coal and this work will be followed by trials using the same fuel in a large scale test engine in Japan.

This research will help determine whether DICE can enable brown coal to produce Australia’s lowest cost, reduced CO2 electricity for the staged replacement of existing coal power plants.

CSIRO suggests that DICE could provide a pathway to net negative CO2 emissions, by focusing on DICE efficiency first, then bringing in high penetration renewables with bio-CCS and lastly partial CCS.

The project is supported by industry partners including Exergen, Ignite Energy Resources, AGL, MAN Diesel & Turbo and EnergyAustralia.

Brown Coal Innovation Australia (BCIA) has allocated A$1 million to the technology trial, which is designed to maximize the value of the resource by significantly reducing emissions associated with the use of brown coal.

Australia has the second largest brown coal resource in the world but current utilisation technologies are carbon intensive so we need to implement cleaner and more efficient ways to generate energy from coal. CSIRO is excited about the potential for DICE to lower power costs, halve carbon dioxide intensity and create a new export market for both brown and black coal.

—CSIRO Energy Group Executive, Dr. Alex Wonhas

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