A $90 million partnership between the Australian and Victorian Governments will help ensure a bright future for Latrobe Valley coal industries in a low emissions economy.
Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson AM MP, today launched the Advanced Lignite Demonstration Program with Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources Michael O'Brien MP.
Each Government will contribute $45 million to the program, which will fund development and deployment of emerging technologies to improve the economic recovery of brown coal and reduce emissions from coal-fired electricity generation.
"The Gippsland region contains more than 20 per cent of the world's low rank coal reserves, with an estimated economic life of about 490 years and it is important we look for improvements in the way we harness this valuable resource," Mr Ferguson said.
"The Program will ensure continued opportunities for economic growth, employment in the Latrobe Valley region and a sustainable source of energy for Victorian industries and households.
"There is also potential for brown coal to develop into a valuable export, which would not be possible without the technological innovation that may also assist in meeting the Government's emissions reductions targets of five per cent fewer emissions than 2000 levels by 2020."
Victorian Energy and Resources Minister Michael O'Brien said the funding was part of a drive to find new ways of developing Victoria's massive brown coal resource.
"Our brown coal resource has for a long time benefited all Victorians, delivering a reliable and affordable power source that has underpinned our economic growth and been a competitive advantage for the state," Mr O'Brien said.
"There is a long term viable future for the Latrobe Valley based on the sustainable use of brown coal."
The new program will pursue development of more efficient and less emissions-intensive coal upgrading technologies including direct conversion, drying or dewatering of coal and conversion to higher value energy products.
Possible end products from these projects could include transport fuels, hydrogen, liquefied natural gas, briquettes, fertiliser, fine chemicals, char and feedstock for more efficient power plants.
Projects will need to demonstrate a commercial pathway from coal upgrading to utilisation through a range of conversion processes.
Ministers Ferguson and O'Brien released the Program Application and Guidelines and called for Expressions of Interest, which close on 19 November 2012.
Applications will be assessed by an Independent Assessment Panel with shortlisted projects to be invited to submit a Request for Proposal in December 2012.
Funds will typically be provided over a four-year period, with the first funded projects scheduled to commence construction during the 2013-14 financial year.