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New joint centre to secure future energy, reduce emissions

By: Megan Meates
13 March, 2013

A newly established joint research centre at Curtin University will help secure future energy supplies and reduce CO2 emissions from both Australia and China.

The Australia-China Joint Research Centre for Energy has been established with support from the Australia-China Science and Research Fund to develop advanced energy technologies needed to fulfil the two top priorities of both governments: energy security and emission reductions.

The centre will explore research on both renewable energy and fossil fuels.

John Curtin Distinguished Professor Chun-Zhu Li, the Australian Director of the new centre, said the technologies to be developed, such as biomass pyrolysis and gasification, can bring substantial economic benefits to both Australia and China.

"Biomass is among the cheapest of all renewable energy sources and is the only one that can be used to make liquid fuels directly," he said.

"Furthermore, both Australia and China have abundant biomass resources. For example, Western Australia can produce enough non-food biofuels to replace a large fraction of its petrol and diesel demand."

Pyrolysis technology with biomass has the potential to produce a clean liquid fuel and leave behind a carbon-rich residue, biochar, which can be used to improve the productivity of marginal soils while achieving carbon sequestration.

Gasification technology coupled with fuel cells using biomass has the potential to generate green base-load electricity with near-zero CO2 emissions.

Professor Li said the development of a bioenergy industry in both China and Australia will create unprecedented opportunities for regional and rural areas rich in biomass resources.

"The industry can potentially double the gross domestic product of these regions, allowing opportunities for much needed cheap energy and fuels for the development of other industries, as well as the production of biochar to help remediate carbon-deficient soils for food production," he said.

Professor Li said energy storage research will also be a priority for the centre, as it is a key factor for making intermittent solar and wind a reliable renewable energy source for the future energy supply mix.

This centre is one of six to be founded with support from the Australia-China Science and Research Fund. The centre will be co-directed by Professor Ke-Chang Xie of Taiyuan University of Technology in China and will include China HuaDian Electric Research Institute and National Institute of Clean-and-Low-Carbon Energy as partners.

Monash University is an Australian partner of this joint research centre and will collaborate with the Curtin and Chinese participants in several areas including the generation of biofuels from waste biomass, evaluation of biochar as a soil property enhancer and modification of Australian low rank coals so that they can be safely exported.

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