University of Newcastle researchers are exploring new ways to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and ease the flow-on effects of the Australian Government’s carbon tax.
The team of researchers led by Associate Professor Michael Stockenhuber, is exploring more efficient and safer methods of ventilation air methane (VAM) oxidization – a technique used to destroy methane in the exhaust air released from underground coal mine shafts.
Funded by the Australian Coal Research Limited / Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP), this groundbreaking research will design a combustion technology that will drastically reduce the harmful gases emitted by Australia’s coal mining industry.
“Coal mining is a significant contributor to the emission of methane into the atmosphere,” Professor Stockenhuber said.
“Methane is 23 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2). If we are able to break down and eliminate ventilation air methane through safer and more efficient oxidation methods, we will have the ability to curb greenhouse gas emissions.”
Various methods used to combust VAM have previously been tested, proven and demonstrated, however the high temperature used in some techniques results in limited energy efficiency and safety hazards such as explosions.
To address these risks, Associate Professor Stockenhuber and his team including Professors Bogdan Dlugogorski and Eric Kennedy, are testing the same techniques using a lower temperature and better control over the methane oxidation.
“The lower temperature operation offers a number of advantages, including significant safety improvements, potential for heat recovery, reduction in plant size and potentially no necessity for fuel addition,” Professor Stockenhuber said.
Concentrations of methane in ventilation exhaust air from coal mines is relatively low (typically below 1 per cent), however, the flow rates are so high that VAM makes up the largest source of methane emissions at most mines.
“The price of carbon is $23/tonne and a typical mine with an exhaust of 300m3s-1 can generate an annual tax penalty of $19 million.
“Any reduction in greenhouse gases means a direct drop in the greenhouse gas emissions and financial burden of the carbon tax,” he said.
Associate Professor Michael Stockenhuber, Professor Bogdan Dlugogorski and Professor Eric Kennedy are members of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Energy.
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