The Ensham coal mine near Emerald may host a ‘biomass hub’ under a renewable energy initiative by owner Idemitsu Australia Resources.
Idemitsu Renewable Developments Australia (IRDA) is investing $200,000 in a trial to assess the viability of producing a fully renewable biomass product that could be used with coal to reduce carbon emissions from power stations.
The trial will identify and evaluate crops as biomass feedstock, with the assessment expected to be completed by the end of 2020.
The project is being supported by the Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation and Trade and Investment Queensland (TIQ), including via introductions to pelletisation company Moxiepel Australia.
The first sorghum crop was harvested at Ensham in May this year and pelletised before being shipped to Japan for testing in Idemitsu Kosan Co’s research and development laboratories this month.
Chief commercial officer Chris Walsh said while Ensham was a long-life asset for the company, with production plans out to 2038, Idemitsu was also embracing opportunities in renewables.
“The development of a viable biomass supply is a key long-term strategy for Idemitsu, including the possibility of a ‘biomass hub’ being developed and operated at Ensham,” he said.
“The hub would encompass a large-scale cropping and pelletisation plant, creating much needed construction jobs, as well as up to 75 ongoing operational jobs.
“With the support of the Queensland Government the project has the potential to be a catalyst for the large-scale export of biomass commodities from Queensland.”
IRDA is also considering significant capital investments in solar energy and potential hydrogen applications.