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Since its establishment in 2006, COAL21 has invested $300 million in 13 projects to develop low-emissions technologies for the coal-fired power generation sector and for coal mining operations. This investment has led to:


the identification of prospective geological sites suitable for CO2 storage


understanding of the technical and financial viability of different carbon capture and storage technologies


progress in the safe deployment of methane emissions abatement technologies for coal mines.

Identification of carbon storage sites

When COAL21 began, there was very little known about geological storage opportunities in New South Wales and Queensland. Some high-level surveys had been completed which provided preliminary estimates of the capacity of major geological basins.

Using these surveys and publicly-available data from oil and gas exploration, COAL21-funded projects have examined more than 30 locations in geological basins within reasonable proximity of coal-fired power stations. Most were quickly identified as unsuitable and eliminated, allowing new projects to focus on the most prospective areas.

Findings from COAL21-funded projects have identified the Surat Basin in Queensland as a potential site for an industrial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration between 2020 and 2025. The Darling Basin in NSW also shows potential for future use as a CCS site.

The southern end of the Surat Basin potentially offers commercial-scale CO2 storage opportunities at significant depth (below 2000m). The shallower (1200m) northern end of the basin, adjacent to gas fields, is better suited to a smaller scale carbon storage demonstration project. Learn more about our carbon storage projects.

Areas examined for carbon storage potential: Qld

Move your pointer over (or touch) the location markers on the map for more detail.

Qld map – courtesy of University of Qld Energy Initiative

Areas examined for carbon storage potential: NSW

NSW map – courtesy of Coal Innovation NSW

New insights into carbon capture and storage

In 2006, there was limited understanding of how best to capture carbon based on the view that integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) would be the preferred power generation technology. This stemmed from the fact that IGCC was believed to be more efficient than conventional coal-fired technology.

However, findings from COAL21-funded projects determined that while IGCC with CCS is technically feasible, its capital costs cannot be justified for electricity generation alone. IGCC can be configured to produce multiple, high-value products such as liquid fuels, chemicals and fertilisers as well as electricity and may have application in the future. Thanks to this investment, we now understand the relative merits of different carbon capture technologies and can move confidently into the future having de-prioritised IGCC and shifted focus to post-combustion capture (PCC) and oxyfuel carbon capture technologies.

Future focus: PCC and oxyfuel

The COAL21-funded Callide Oxyfuel Demonstration delivered the world’s first industrial-scale demonstration of oxyfuel combustion and carbon capture technology. Other projects such as the Wandoan Power IGCC Feasibility Project and ZeroGen IGCC with CCS Project have given us a better understanding of the costs and benefits of CO2 capture options.

Findings have identified PCC as the leading CCS technology for deployment between 2025 and 2030 as it is the most advanced capture technology, and oxyfuel as a viable technology for deployment at some locations between 2030 and 2050. Read more about the benefits of PCC and oxyfuel.

Safe reduction in coal mine emissions

COAL21-funded projects have advanced our understanding of how to safely deploy Ventilation Air Methane (VAM) abatement technology at underground coal mines.

The University of Newcastle Methane Reduction Project has completed an exhaustive investigation into the range of safety issues associated with connecting current methane abatement technology to an underground coal mine.

The Centennial Coal Methane Reduction Demonstration Project has developed a framework outlining the steps needed to ensure a VAM abatement connection to an operating underground coal mine is safe to operate.  Drawing heavily on the University of Newcastle Methane Reduction Project, plans are underway to enable a full-scale demonstration of VAM abatement at an operating underground coal mine.

An ongoing commitment

In 2017, COAL21 received a new commitment of $255 million to fund a further ten years of carbon capture and storage development in Australia. Read more about the Fund’s activities.