'Clean coal' capture plant opened in Queensland

The coal industry says it has made a giant step forward with the opening of Australia's first 'clean coal' carbon capture plant.

The $200 million Callide Oxyfuel project, launched on the weekend, will trap greenhouse gas generated by CS Energy's Callide A coal-fired power station in Biloela, central Queensland.

The project, which is backed by the Japanese government, is designed to test the viability of clean coal technology under Australian conditions.

Project director Chris Spero says the plant uses an oxyfuel combustion process, which burns coal with pure oxygen for less waste; then traps and stores the greenhouse gases rather than releasing them into the atmosphere.

"This project is designed to catch over 85 per cent of the CO2, of the flue gases being treated," he told AM.

The rural power plant generates 30 megawatts, only enough to power about 30,000 homes, but it will test of the viability of retrofitting existing power stations with the technology.

Proponents also want to know how effective the process is on Australian coal, which for geological reasons has unique characteristics compared with overseas coal.

The operators are still mapping the geology of the area, trying to find somewhere to store the trapped greenhouse gases.

Japanese Department of Natural Resources and Fuel director Akira Yasui says more than half of Japan's coal comes from Australia.

"For power generation essential for our economic development, coal has many benefits over other fuels because of supply stability and the economy of it," Mr Yasui said.

"Japan relies on coal for about 20 per cent of its power generation, so Japan is very enthusiastic about using coal but also reducing CO2 emissions at the same time." However, Greenpeace spokeswoman Julie Macken says Australia's first carbon capture plant is too little, too late.

"They've had plenty of time, if they really thought this was viable they had plenty of time to start investing in it," she said.

The trial is expected to run for two years.

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