Victorian Energy Minister Michael O’Brien says Victoria has more energy in the ground than the entire north-west shelf of Australia, and the Victorian government plans to consider commercial proposals to exploit those reserves this year.
“We are really the energy hub of the country,” O’Brien says.
The Victorian government wants to tap the economic opportunities posed by the Latrobe Valley’s huge energy potential. The region has the second-largest brown coal reserves in the world.
“There are about 430 billion tons of proven brown coal reserves, enough to last 500 years,” O’Brien says.
“During the course of this year we will take expressions of interest in Victorian brown coal. I expect there to be a very positive market assessment.”
Attending a coal conference in Japan last year after the tsunami, O’Brien said he found Japanese companies were keen to find alternative energy sources after the nuclear power station meltdown.
“I’ve spoken to people from India and China too. They know our coal has a high energy factor, they know it is abundant, they know Victoria is a stable place to invest, so there is significant interest.”
Considering environmental arguments against the use of brown coal, O’Brien says: “Previously we have not been able to use that resource as effectively as we would have liked because of the high emissions content, but every day there are new technologies being proposed … to use brown coal in a lower emissions way.”
Once the high moisture content is removed, the coal has a lower emission profile, he says.
“You can transform it into a number of higher-value products such as hydrogen, diesel, briquettes to burn in power stations, fertiliser and char.
“Various companies will put forward proposals to use the coal. We will be looking at those and deciding on the best use for the state of Victoria. The government believes that brown coal can and should play a role in our energy future.
“Encouraging new investors and the right technologies we could deliver a new generation of industry in the Latrobe Valley, boosting the local economy and creating new jobs.”