COAL will form part of the energy mix required to ensure reliable provision of electricity for many years to come, according to Centennial Coal managing director and CEO David Moult, but a key to the industry’s growth will be the adoption of new technology to enhance mining practices and make coal a cleaner product.

These were important messages delivered by David Moult during an Austmine Smart Mining Networking event in Sydney. As well as being relevant to Australia’s coal industry, the messages are particularly important in emerging Asian nations as coal will play an important role in powering up nations such as Indonesia, India Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Myanmar and Mongolia.

“Governments have set ambitious targets to supply electricity over the next 20-30 years and while renewable energy will play a role in meeting the targets, the only realistic way they will be met is through development of more coal-fired power stations,” he said.

David Moult told the Austmine forum that renewable energy was becoming more important as an energy source but should not be relied on as the only energy source – it should be part of an energy mix.

Renewable energy creates greater volatility as shown in South Australia, which has the cheapest energy in Australia when the wind is blowing and the most expensive when it is not, while supply can also be unreliable. A reliable base-load source can only be supplied by coal.

Australia needs ‘clean coal’ power stations which form part of an energy mix.” He said the Isogo power plant in Japan was an example of what was needed. “It is not a new power station, but an old one converted to use ultra super critical clean coal, 33% of which is supplied by Centennial from the Western Coalfields in New South Wales.

“This is the future for coal,” David Moult said, adding that the Isogo plant was held up as an example of how efficient clean coal could be.

He also stated that new technology was needed to make coal mining more efficient and safer, citing Centennial’s use of longwall and real time data analysis technologies as having greatly enhanced underground operations and safety.

He said the METS sector needed to do more to develop automation and singled out the area of roof bolting. “If a couple of seconds can be saved automatically installing each bolt, it will save a lot of time as thousands of bolts are used each year.”

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