Victoria seeks brown coal opportunities with China

Victoria seeks brown coal opportunities with China

Brown coal, a low grade of coal, has been ignored in China because it’s not easily exploited.

But, Victoria state in southwestern Australia, has been seeking brown coal opportunities with China and solving environmental problems by its mining and utilization.

“It’s actually quite significant for China to exploit brown coal because its energy needs have grown, and Victoria has realized the commercial values of the cooperation,” says Huang Shengchu, president of the China Coal Information Institute (CCII).

The world’s brown coal reserve is estimated at 1,000 billion tons, with 212 billion tons in China. It accounts for about 13 percent of the country’s coal, mainly located in the eastern Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

But China has paid little attention to brown coal, Huang says, because of its high moisture content, sometimes as high as 66 percent, and high ash content.

It is used as fuel for steam-electric power generation. However, carbon dioxide emissions from brown coal fired plants are generally much higher than for black coal plants.

Because of its low energy density, brown coal is also inefficient to transport and often has to be burned in power stations close to the mines, such as in Australia’s Latrobe Valley.

Brown coal is not suited for deep underground mining, but for opencast mining (extracting coal from seams at shallow depth), a technique with which China has little experience, Huang adds.

“We need to learn advanced technologies and management experiences from countries which have working on brown coal mining for a long time, such as Australia,” Huang says.

“The measures and experiences of environmental treatment and protection are urgently needed for China,” Huang adds.

Victoria is home to the world’s largest known reserves of brown coal. The total brown coal resource in the Latrobe Valley is estimated at 394,000 million tons, with a coal reserve of 50,000 million tons.

“We also have extensive brown coal mining experiences and lots of scientists, enterprises and innovation bodies have been working on technological research and innovation,” says Peter Batchelor, minister for Energy and Resources of the Brumby Government of Victoria.

As few other countries in the world which have abundant brown coal reserves, Australia is willing to work with China, focusing on developing new and cleaner ways to extract and use brown coal reserves, as well as carbon capture and storage technologies, he says.

“China and Australia share many objectives, especially in ensuring a healthy energy supply and reducing green house gas emissions,” Batchelor says, “It provides us with a possibility to work together.”


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