The Australian government has launched a A$50 million (US$38.7 million) fund to support the growth of carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS) projects.

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The government unveiled the fund this week, which forms part of its wider A$1.9 billion new energy technologies package, announced last year as part of the 2020-2021 federal budget.

Australia’s Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor said carbon capture technologies would play a critical role in the goal of achieving net zero emissions.

“Australia has the potential to be a world leader in geosequestration. We have the right geology and storage basins,” he stated.

“The fund will provide targeted support to a wide array of carbon capture, use and storage opportunities, including carbon recycling, negative emissions/direct air capture, and carbon capture and storage.”

Reducing commercial barriers

Taylor added the A$50 million fund would reduce technical and commercial barriers to deploying CCUS technologies and identifying potential project sites.

According to the federal government, the CCUS fund is backed by a “comprehensive technology investment framework” that aimed to leverage a three-to-five times level of co-investment from the private sector and other levels of government.

“This investment is a practical example of the Morrison government’s commitment to being a low emissions technology leader and reducing emissions through technology, not taxes,” Taylor said.

“Australia’s potential to permanently and safely store emissions underground is being closely watched by our trading partners, including Singapore and South Korea.”

Australia’s Resources Minister Keith Pitt added: “The International Energy Agency confirms CCS combined with high-efficiency low emissions (HELE) technology reduces emissions by as much as 90%, while providing cheap and reliable electricity.”

Overall, the Australian government intends to invest more than A$18 billion in low emissions technology over the next decade, which it believes will drive at least A$50 billion of new investment over the next 10 years, according to Taylor.

The government is currently pursuing opportunities to collaborate on technology solutions, including CCUS, with Japan, Singapore, the UK and the US.

Surat storage potential being explored

Despite the push for cleaner energy, Pitt claims that CCUS technology could provide a potential future for Australia’s “premium quality coal” in meeting the world’s energy needs “for decades to come”.

In particular he cited the planned CCS trial at Queensland’s Millmerran coal-fired power station, which is intended to be a first step towards large scale CCS within the onshore Surat basin.

The project is being developed by Glencore subsidiary Carbon Transport and Storage Company (CTSCo) and could provide a potential starting point for wider CCS development in the Surat.

CTSCo believes the geology of the Surat basin has the potential to store up to 2.9 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

It has already completed front-end engineering and design work and intends to make a final investment decision on the A$230 million project this year.

The project will capture up to 110,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the Millmerran power station, which would then be transported about 100 kilometres away for permanent underground storage in the Precipice sandstone.

If successful, CTSCo claims it the development could allow Australia's three youngest coal-fire power stations — Kogan Creek, Millmerran and Tarong B — to operate beyond 2050.