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Source: The Australian



WHITE Energy chief executive John Atkinson says there’s no such thing as clean coal.

He believes that concepts such as carbon sequestration or coal-to-liquids processes, which are touted as possible ways of delivering “clean coal”, are a long way from becoming an economic reality.

“Clean coal sounds good, but cleaner coal is the reality,” says Atkinson. “We can clean up coal — but we can only take it so far.”

Atkinson, a former lawyer who ran Baker and McKenzie’s Hong Kong office, has linked up with associates of coal miner White Industries to market an Australian “cleaner coal” process.

Developed by the CSIRO, the process upgrades low-grade sub-bituminous coal by turning it into coal briquettes, allowing it to generate more energy with lower ash and sulphur emissions.

It’s a process particularly relevant for countries with large reserves of low-grade coal, including the US, Indonesia and China.

Atkinson has been negotiating with major American coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming, an area sometimes described as the Middle East of the US.

He says the White Energy briquette process will not just substantially upgrade sub- bituminous coal; it’s also more environmentally friendly, reducing the serious dust problems created by transporting low-grade coal.

White Energy has its roots in Atkinson’s discussions with Australian coal industry veteran Travers Duncan, the former managing director of White Industries.

In the 1990s, White Industries and the CSIRO teamed up to develop “ultra-clean coal”, setting up a demonstration plant in Cessnock in the NSW Hunter Valley.

The process took the ash out of the coal, but produced a wet slurry that was difficult to transport. They went back to the CSIRO, which came up with the idea of drying the coal and turning it into briquettes using a unique “binderless” process that did not involve the usual impurities used to produce briquettes…