$30m grant to develop world-first coal mining emissions abatement technologies

World First Emissions Abatement Technology

20 February 2014

The University of Newcastle has received $30 million to develop and roll-out world-leading abatement technologies for fugitive methane emissions from underground coal mining operations. The new technologies could reduce these emissions from the sector by as much as 90 percent and reduce Australia's annual greenhouse gas output by three percent.

The research will be led by internationally-renowned energy researcher and Chemical Engineer, Professor Behdad Moghtaderi, based at the University's Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER), and funded by partners including the Australian Government Department of Industry and ACA Low Emissions Technologies Ltd. The research will be conducted in partnership with major mining companies, including Glencore.

The release of fugitive methane emissions is a by-product of underground coal mining.  It represents a growing environmental and safety challenge for industry, and accounts for 64 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions from this mining sector. Coal mining-related activities account for around eight percent of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity, according to the World Coal Association.

The four-year research project will address some of the major technical barriers to the full scale commercial deployment of ventilation air methane (VAM) emissions abatement technologies, including the critical challenge of safe connection of VAM abatement technology to the ventilation systems of underground mines.

Professor Moghtaderi said the University of Newcastle, based in Australia's largest coal mining region, is at the international forefront of VAM abatement technology development.

"I am driven by the imperative to develop technologies that address greenhouse gas emissions - the future of our planet depends on it," he said. "On an Australia-wide scale, removing VAM emissions from underground coal mining operations would be equivalent to removing 2.8 million cars from our roads."

Once developed, the project outcomes will be equally applicable in other countries with underground coal mines.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Caroline McMillen, said the $30 million agreement – the largest funding award to the University for a single research project – was the result of UON's outstanding research talent and an increased focus on fostering novel models for collaboration.

"This significant funding agreement with industry and government partners is testament to Professor Moghtaderi's performance and reputation as a researcher who is driving world-class innovation.

"The University's Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources – NIER – offers the sector the ideal platform for innovation and collaboration to solve large-scale and complex problems. This national multi-disciplinary research project will demonstrate what can be achieved through the collective strength of industry, government and academia collaborating to address issues of global significance."

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Nick Talley, said the project was unique in its scope among Australian university research in this field."Professor Moghtaderi and his team will develop the technology from fundamental principles right through to industrial demonstration. Overseeing this large scale project from start to finish is an ambitious and distinctive undertaking by the team and the University," Professor Talley said.

Watch Professor Behdad Moghtaderi's video

Contact: Sheena Martin
Contact Phone: +61 2 4921 8714
Contact Email: media@newcastle.edu.au