Recent R&D

Over the last four years there has been considerable interest in DICE, especially using MRC produced from the lower-cost physical cleaning processes, which give DICE the economics to compete with base load conventional coal generation.

The CSIRO has undertaken a range of R&D into fuel production options and coal/char engine interactions, and, without exception, results have been above expectation:

Combustion of biochar MRC under engine conditions
Combustion of biochar MRC under engine conditions
A 3,870 cc single cylinder medium speed engine adapted to fire MRC
A 3,870 cc single cylinder medium speed
engine adapted to fire MRC
Glencore pilot plant
Glencore MRC pilot plant
Efficient separation of coal and ash
Efficient separation of coal and ash (tailings feed)
Glencore pilot plant
Glencore product for MAN
    • Suitable MRC has been produced from 17 carbon sources (black and brown coals, coal tailings and biochar).
    • Both black and brown coal MRCs have given excellent ignition and combustion under engine conditions, with ignition delays ranging from 5–10 ms without fuel preheat - comparable or superior to heavy fuel oils.
    • Biochar (eucalyptus) gave the longest delay of around 15 ms, and, although tolerable, these delays can be shortened and combustion improved by sweetening with black or brown coals to improve engine performance (both efficiency and output).
    • Full-scale injector spray tests have been undertaken using tonne batches of MRC from black and brown coals.
    • Solutions have been identified for nearly eliminating the slurry water penalty on thermal efficiency.
    • On an LCA or fuel cycle basis, DICE should be more energy efficient than fuel oil, and with similar CO2 intensity.
    • DICE at 30–110% load has a similar CO2 intensity to open cycle natural gas at full load. With biochar co-firing, even lower carbon intensity could be achieved.
    • Short-duration engine operation has been achieved with a small laboratory engine using MRCs produced from Yancoal UCC (40 hours) and from 2 Victorian brown coals (Exergen CHTD 4 hours, Morwell briquettes 12 hours).  The small engine operated smoothly, was able to exceed its rated torque and achieved thermal efficiency close to that operating on diesel fuel.  Negligible ash fouling was observed.
    • Technology options have been identified for bolt-on integration of highly energy efficient CO2 capture. This could be achieved without significant de-rating of power output, and ultimately at a cost below the likely Australian carbon penalties (M. Oettinger, Global CCS Institute, 2012).
    • Preliminary MRC fuel standards have been developed in conjunction with MAN Diesel and Turbo who have taken a lead position with a staged engine development program, and the establishment of a specialised 1 MW single cylinder engine test facility in Japan.
    • A joint CSIRO, MAN and coal industry funded project has commenced to undertake large engine tests using the 1 MW test engine in Japan.
    • CSIRO-MAN are presently establishing a large injector/fuel valve test facility at CSIRO Energy Technology in Newcastle.
    • On the basis of the favourable R&D results, proposals are being developed for demonstration of DICE, with sites being nominated in New South Wales and Victoria. Similar proposals are being considered for China, South Africa, Germany, Korea and Indonesia.
    • Glencore has completed pilot scale trials to produce MRC, with over 30 tonnes being produced from a range of coal products including tailings.  These trials were so successful that a range of other premium coal products is being considered using the MRC processing approach of milling before flotation.  Glencore are currently producing 10 tonnes of MRC for the large test engine trials in Japan.