2018 Engineering Excellence Awards - Emissions breakthrough

REVOLUTIONARY: The testing facility will provide substantial industry-wide benefit through the removal of technical barriers currently preventing full-scale commercial deployment of VAM abatement technologies
REVOLUTIONARY: The testing facility will provide substantial industry-wide benefit through the removal of technical barriers currently preventing full-scale commercial deployment of VAM abatement technologies

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A team led by Professor Behdad Moghtaderi at the University of Newcastle has developed the world’s first large scale testing facility for ventilation air methane abatement.

The $10 million  100m detonation tube  was designed and constructed as part of larger $25 million project focused on fugitive methane emissions, for mining operations in particular.

There are a number of compelling reasons why industry seeks to abate methane emissions.

“In terms of global warming potential, methane is 28 to 30 times worse than carbon dioxide,”  Professor  Moghtaderi  said. “There is a price on carbon, so it’s a liability for the mining industry apart from environmental concerns, and  being flammable, safety is also a critical consideration.”

A range of emerging technologies for methane abatement exist but before they can be implemented on a large scale, they need to be verified for performance.

“Up until now, no facility existed to do this upper end of testing,” Professor Moghtaderi said. 

“This is what we have done. If you have technology for methane abatement, we hook it up and simulate it in real conditions and tell you if it works or not.”  

The demand for this technology is high.

“Mines are very restricted areas,” Professor Moghtaderi said. “You just can’t test this type of thing anywhere.

“Industry needs this larger-scale facility that replicates a real mine site.

 “It can be used   for anything related to methane flammability or explosions – oil and gas, coal seam gas.

“We have applied for further funding and there is no doubt this facility will become a national hub for regulation into the future.”

Work on the national flagship operation began in 2013 and final experiments at the government-owned Test Safe Facility near Londonderry (NSW), near Penrith, finished earlier this year.

“The University of Newcastle project team has worked with three industry partners -  Glencore, South32 and ICD Asia Pacific, utilising funding from the Commonwealth Department of Industry Innovation and Science, and Australian Coal Association Low Emissions Technologies Ltd (ACALET) (an umbrella organisation which oversees the development of low emission technologies for mining industries),” Professor Moghtaderi explained.

“There have been more than 40 contractors working on this too, the actual research team has about 30 team members – so we’re probably talking over several hundred people  in total.”

The project, formally titled “The World's First Experimental Facility for Large-Scale Testing of VAM Abatement Systems and Components” has been nominated in the Newcastle Division of the 2018 Engineering Excellence Awards.

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