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Big grant awarded to brown coal project in Australia

World Coal,

The Australian federal government, as well as the state government of Victoria, have awarded AU$ 25 million in the form of a grant, to develop brown coal resources in the Latrobe Valley.

Shanghai Electric Australia Power and Energy Development Pty Ltd will use the money to build a AU$ 119 million demonstration plant at the Loy Yang A power plant.

The demonstration plant will produce briquettes for export to China, where they will be used to fuel a power station in Shanghai.

Victorian energy minister, Russell Northe, said the coal would be processed to reduce its water content in order to cut down on emissions: "One of the attributes of brown coal is a high moisture content, which can attribute to higher emissions when you're producing electricity," Northe said.

"The company's seeking to reduce that water content significantly and use that for the purpose of export to China for use in one of their power stations within China. So this is an exciting form of technology that can be applied," Northe added.

The project is the third to be awarded money through the Advanced Lignite Demonstration Program, which is jointly funded by the State and Federal governments to boost investment in the Latrobe Valley.

Coal Energy Australia and Ignite Energy Resources were awarded the other two grants.

Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said the program was designed to speed up the development of new technologies and drive new industries.

He said brown coal has a long history of providing employment and investment opportunities, and the Advanced Lignite Demonstration Program supported new ways to create jobs.

The latest project is expected to create about 100 construction jobs and about 40 full-time positions once the site is up and running.

No environmental assessment

A key critic of the proposed lignite project has been Environment Victoria, a green energy activist group. Campaigns director, Mark Wakeham, said that the grant had been awarded without enough consideration for the environment.

"It's astonishing really that $25 million has been handed over to this company with no environmental assessment," Wakeham said.

Northe, however, dismissed the environment group’s claims.

"We understand that there will be people who will be opposed to the use of brown coal there has been for quite some time," he said.

"We believe that if you're able to use the brown coal in a manner that improves environmental performance then they're the opportunities of the future. It's not just about the jobs, if we can improve environmental performance whether it's through electricity generation or other forms of utilising this resource, then they need to be explored," Northe concluded.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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