Identifying Sustainable Uses for Victorian Brown Coal

Client: Department of Primary Industries, Victoria State Government, Australia
mining head conducting phone interviews roadmapping workshop outlook of coal use through 2050 graphic Graphs showing workshop consensus to expert modeling

Project Overview

Nexight developed a roadmap identifying the technology and policy developments needed to achieve cost-competitive, low-emission energy products from Victoria’s brown coal resource over the next 40 years.

Need

Victoria’s vast brown coal resource—the second largest in the world—has driven economic growth in the state and provides low-cost regional power. Yet new Australian legislation restricting carbon emissions threatens to strand this strategic resource without viable pathways to sustainable future use. The Department of Primary Industries needed a decision tool to direct funding toward the most promising pathways for continuing development of brown coal in a carbon-constrained world.

Our Solution

We engaged Victoria’s industry and research community to help the Victorian government identify where coordinated investment in advanced technologies could expand the use of brown coal and make it an affordable, low-carbon energy option. We integrated expert knowledge and independent technical analysis to outline the most viable technology pathways for brown coal through 2050, and their critical points of success or failure. We primarily drew from the following sources:

  • Expert interviews we led with 30 industry, government, and community experts to gather preliminary information regarding market demand, energy pricing, technology performance, carbon management, and alternative fuels
  • Commissioned technical studies on the status, challenges, and opportunities for advanced brown coal technologies
  • Roadmapping workshop in which we facilitated a two-day workshop with 6 parallel breakout groups each with 10–15 participants from government, industry, research laboratories, and community organizations to identify and prioritize promising brown coal technology pathways
  • Energy projections from the Australian government; International Energy Agency forecasts of future global energy markets; and modeling from national research organizations
  • Published studies of resource characterization, technology assessments, economic projections, and policy analysis
Using notes taken during meeting discussions and electronic comments provided by each reviewer, we developed two 100-page reports that synthesized the reviewers’ feedback into concise, technically accurate, and actionable summaries. The first report—the meeting summary and recommendations report—will be published on the NETL peer review website. NETL will use the second report—an internal report with the reviewer comments on individual projects, including more than 100 recommendations and action items to strengthen projects—to guide and redirect the Carbon Storage Program projects, as appropriate. The Victorian Brown Coal Roadmap identifies three fundamental pathways for using low-rank brown coal:
  1. Coal to Power: Producing low-emissions, baseload electricity using advanced technology for coal preparation, power systems, and carbon capture and storage
  2. Coal to Products via Gasification: Gasifying brown coal to produce high-value fuel exports with CCS technology
  3. Coal to Products without Gasification: Processing brown coal through drying and liquefaction to produce high-value exports

Impact

The Victorian government and industry leaders are now using the roadmap to wade through competing technical information and make informed investment decisions that will benefit the Victorian economy and its people.