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Jason Laumb, Senior Research Manager, and Josh Stanislowski, Research Manager, flew to Melbourne, Australia, in December to conduct a full-day short course on coal gasification technologies. Laumb also presented a keynote address at a full-day seminar on coal to products in Melbourne the next day.

The short course was sponsored by Brown Coal Innovation Australia (BCIA), a nonprofit organization tasked with investing proactively in the development of technologies and people that broaden the use of brown coal for a sustainable future (BCIA Web site).

“BCIA is similar to our Lignite Energy Council in North Dakota. It funds research for furthering the use of brown coal in Australia,” said Laumb. “Course participants came from a wide range of occupations: university researchers, technology vendors, consultants, and even some business people for whom this was their first exposure to gasification.”

The course is designed to provide an overview of the diverse nature of available gasification processes and technologies, depending on feedstocks, products produced, and environmental goals. The course covers commercial technologies, end products, and cost analysis aspects.

Australia has about 25% of the world’s known reserves of brown coal, which is a low-rank coal similar to North Dakota lignite. The biggest challenge with brown coal, according to Laumb, is that it can have over 60% moisture. The coal is difficult to burn, pulverize, and feed. Laumb said the Australians have done beneficiation work over the years both with thermal processes, where the coal is dried before gasification, and with different mechanical processes, where the moisture is removed up-front of putting the coal into the gasification system.

Laumb’s keynote address was on coal to products in the United States, what past coal-to-products projects have been, and what the future looks like for coal to products. Potential products include electric power, liquid fuels, chemicals, fertilizers, synthetic gases, natural gas, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and other materials. Laumb said the true path forward will depend greatly on CO2 policy.

“The purpose of our trip was to present the gasification course, but we were able to make use of that time when we were in country to meet with as many people and groups as we could,” said Laumb. “We had meetings set up in Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney with potential partners, some of whom are interested in our gasification testing capabilities and some of whom are doing work similar to the EERC’s work with CO2 capture and sequestration, so we looked at ways we could enhance each other’s programs.”
While it was an extremely productive trip, Laumb said the jet lag caught up with him when he got home.

“It was a total of nine flights in 7 days for 19,000 flight miles round-trip, which is nearly equivalent to flying around the world,” Laumb noted. “It’s a 15-hour flight between Sydney and Los Angeles, with a 7-hour layover in LA. Josh and I watched a lot of football in the airport.”