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Solid Energy Enters Joint Venture To Investigate Lignite Briquetting

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Solid Energy Enters Joint Venture To Investigate Lignite Briquetting

Energy producer, Solid Energy has today announced a next stage in its long-term programme to maximise the value from New Zealand's world scale lignite resource. Solid Energy has entered into a joint venture agreement with GTL Energy Ltd to investigate the feasibility of building a briquetting plant that could upgrade approximately 100,000 tonnes of lignite per annum mined at its New Vale Opencast Mine near Mataura.

The plant is planned for an industrial estate, the former Mataura paper mill, about 10 km east of the mine and would use GTL Energy's technology. This upgrades the low-rank coal by removing significant amounts of moisture, prior to combustion, which raises the thermal value and reduces emissions from the upgraded product.

Over the next few months Solid Energy and GTL Energy will complete technical and economic feasibility studies, undertake final engineering design and seek resource consents. A decision to proceed with construction of the plant is expected to be made early in 2010 and will be based on demand from South Island industrial and commercial customers. The plant would create about 10 jobs and could be operational in late 2010.

Brett Gamble, Solid Energy's General Manager, New Energy, says GTL Energy's technology will offer a significantly higher grade and cleaner energy source for South Island industrial and commercial customers. "We are very pleased to be working with GTL Energy in this next stage of investigating the feasibility of upgrading lignites which offer a great opportunity to utilise New Zealand's vast and relatively untapped Southland lignite resources."

GTL Energy operates mainly out of Colorado, USA, where it maintains its research and development facilities and programmes specifically designed to upgrade low-rank coal and lignite from a number of countries. GTL Energy's Chief Executive Officer, Robert French, says: "Solid Energy's selection of GTL Energy's technology is further validation of the unique approach we have taken to coal upgrading. Our ability to use low temperature ensures a cleaner way to improve the efficiency of low-rank coals."

Household coal: Solid Energy's decision on whether to proceed with the briquetting plant will be based on demand from industrial and commercial customers. The lignite briquettes could also be used for home heating. As part of the studies Solid Energy will investigate the feasibility of bagging briquettes for the household market at the now-closed Ohai Mine bagging plant until such time as the National Environmental Standards for air quality are implemented.


Solid Energy had previously advised it would withdraw from supplying coal to the household market by the beginning of 2013, in line with the National Environmental Standards for air quality, which recognise that burning solid fuel in open fires and older domestic burners causes significant air quality and health issues in many of our towns and cities. The Government has recently announced that it will review the timing for the implementation of the standards. As a result, Solid Energy may alter its deadline for completing its withdrawal from the household market to be consistent with the outcome of that review and to continue our support for local communities who have limited other options for secure affordable home heating.

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