Cutting the path to reduced emissions

Monday, 16 January, 2006

A variety of technological advances being developed by CSIRO can dramatically reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, according to CSIRO's chief of energy technology, Dr David Brockway.

One of the key initiatives being developed by CSIRO's Division of Energy Technology and Energy Transformed Flagship, known as Post Combustion Capture (PCC), can reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by more than 85% from existing coal and gas-fired power stations when coupled with carbon storage.

PCC works by capturing greenhouse emissions after the fuel is burnt in a power station. It can be retro-fitted to existing power plants, integrated into new power stations and used in conjunction with renewable systems such as solar power to minimise efficiency losses from power stations. CSIRO is currently constructing a pilot PCC plant in Newcastle which will be coupled with solar power.

Dr Brockway says breakthrough technologies such as PCC, together with changes in energy consumption patterns and other incentives are needed to make the deep cuts necessary in Australia's greenhouse emissions.

"There is no doubt that fossil fuels will remain the principal energy source for the foreseeable future, both in Australia and worldwide," Dr. Brockway says. "In the longer term, however, the ultimate objective is a renewable energy economy, though the transition to this point is still likely to be many decades away."

Fossil fuel combustion for stationary energy production is responsible for 49% of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, far ahead of the agriculture (18%) and transport (15%) sectors.

Dr John Wright, Director of CSIRO's Energy Transformed Flagship, says addressing the strong growth in Australia's energy consumption needs a balanced approach.

"A cleaner energy future for Australia will require technologies that are revolutionary, practical and affordable. This requires an active research, development and demonstration program to reduce the greenhouse intensity of technologies using fossil fuels while addressing the need to reduce consumption and develop affordable renewable energy technologies," Dr Wright says.

CSIRO is undertaking research across a range of areas, including: low-emissions technologies for fossil fuel use and efficient coal production; renewable energy and energy storage systems; potential use of hydrogen in the energy cycle; distributed energy generation; energy management and reducing the environmental consequences of energy use.

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