THE University of Newcastle has received $30million to develop new technology to cut greenhouse gases from underground coalmines and help combat climate change.
It was the largest grant in the university’s history for a single research project, vice-chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen said.
The work could lead to a new billion-dollar industry, experts say.
The Abbott government is planning to scrap the carbon tax on July1 but Professor Behdad Moghtaderi said greenhouse gases still needed to be reduced.
‘‘The future of our planet depends on it,’’ he said.
Based at the university’s Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources, Professor Moghtaderi will lead the research.
The research will be done in partnership with major mining companies, including Glencore.
The federal Department of Industry and Australian Coal Association Low Emissions Technologies jointly funded the research.
It involves converting methane emissions – which escape when coal is mined – into carbon dioxide.
The carbon dioxide would be released to the air, as technology to store it underground had not proved viable.
Professor Moghtaderi said methane and carbon dioxide were greenhouse gases but the latter was the lesser of two evils as methane was 25times more potent than carbon dioxide, he said.
An Australian Coal Association statement said methane was removed from coal seams before mining to ensure miners’ safety.
‘‘Recovery of this methane will play an important role in global efforts to reduce emissions and mitigate climate change,’’ it said.
Professor Moghtaderi said the technology – called ‘‘ventilation air methane abatement’’ – could reduce emissions from the sector by up to 90per cent and decrease Australia’s annual greenhouse gases by 3per cent.
The four-year research project would tackle ‘‘some of the major technical barriers to its full-scale commercial deployment’’.
Professor McMillen said the funding reflected the university’s ‘‘outstanding research talent and an increased focus on fostering novel models for collaboration’’.
“This significant funding agreement is testament to Professor Moghtaderi’s performance and reputation as a researcher who is driving world-class innovation,’’ she said.
The institute offered the sector an ‘‘ideal platform for innovation and collaboration to solve large-scale and complex problems’’.
The project would demonstrate industry, government and academia collaborating to tackle ‘‘issues of global significance’’, she said.
Acting deputy vice-chancellor of research Professor Nick Talley said the technology would be developed from ‘‘fundamental principles to industrial demonstration’’.