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Japan's Idemitsu accelerates black pellet tech to cut CO2 in coal-fired power


Aims to burn 50% black pellets together with coal

Co-burning 50% black pellets with coal to exhaust less CO2 than gas

METI pushes for zero emissions in thermal power generation

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  • Takeo Kumagai
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  • Jonathan Loades-Carter
  • Commodity
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Tokyo — Japanese energy company Idemitsu Kosan is stepping up its efforts to develop its technology to use black pellets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in coal-fired thermal power generation in the country.

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In the latest development, Idemitsu, a major coal producer in Australia, said Sept. 3 it had started growing sorghum, a plant used for producing wood pellets, on unused land at its Ensham coal mine facility in Queensland.

Idemitsu said it planned to conduct a torrefaction test, a thermal process which converts wood pellet into black pellet, in late 2020 after completing its test for pelletizing the plant into wood pellets.

Black pellets have better water resistance and grindability than conventional wood pellets and can be burned like coal, helping to reduce CO2 emissions in coal-fired power generation, the company said.

Idemitsu now aims to develop its technology to burn up to 50% of black pellets together with coal in thermal power generation in Japan, which would exhaust less CO2 than burning natural gas, a company spokeswoman said.

The company, however, has so far tested burning up to 20% of black pellets together with coal in Japan, the spokeswoman added.

Pilot plant

Idemitsu is already in touch with Japanese power utilities to test burning black pellets at their coal-fired power plants from a 16,000 mt/year pilot plant in Surat Thani Province in southern Thailand, the spokeswoman said.

Idemitsu is running the black pellet pilot plant together with TTCL, a Toyo Engineering unit in Thailand, and Siam Steel.

The development of black pellets comes at a time when Japan is upping pressure to ensure the phasing out of inefficient coal-fired power plants by 2030.

Japan's push for "zero emissions in thermal power generation and zero-emission fuels" are among the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry's fuel policy priorities for fiscal 2020-2021 (April-March), Ryo Minami, METI's director-general of oil, gas and mineral resources, told S&P Global Platts Sept. 1.

Japan is looking to burn ammonia together with coal, among other options, for thermal power generation as part of the the zero-emission fuels efforts, Minami said.