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MEI Online: Environmental Issues: Latest News: June 3rd 2003

:: SA Joins Global Clean-Coal Initiative  

South Africa has been admitted as a participating member of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) programme of research, development and demonstration on clean coal science (CCS) ­ a development which will enable the country to cooperate with leading researchers in this area from Australia, Europe and North America.

South Africa’s admission brings the number of countries taking part to 12, the others being Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the US.

Although its application was approved by the IEA’s committee on energy research and technology at the beginning of March, South Africa’s membership only became effective on April 15, when the country’s ambassador to France, Thuthukile Skweyiya, signed the implementing agreement in Paris, at the IEA’s head office.

The admission was confirmed in a letter to Minerals and Energy Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka by IEA executive director Claude Mandil.

South Africa’s representatives on the programme’s executive committee will be Xavier Prévost and Lebohang Musi, both of the mineral economics directorate of the Department of Minerals and Energy.

“The focus of the implementing agreement on CCS is the basic science of coal combustion," says the IEA. It adds that the objectives of the agreement are to encourage, support and promote research and development which will lead to improved understanding and characterisation of combustion processes.

Participating members will seek to develop techniques which control and reduce solid, liquid and gaseous emissions associated with combustion; to improve operating efficiency; and to identify methods for the effective use of combustion by-products.

The agreement embraces a range of activities associated with coal combustion, including work related to advanced power-generation technologies, improved modelling and diagnostic methods and the development of low-sulphur oxide burners, co-firing with other fuels and biocoprocessing, that is the use of biomass and coal in combustion processes.

Each of the 12 parties to the agreement is expected to conduct cooperative research, exchange information with its partners and engage in technology-transfer activities regarding CCS.

“The work programme is conducted using both task sharing and cost sharing," says the agency.

“The cost-shared component involves a common fund which is used to support coal research studies at the International Flame Research Foundation, in the Netherlands," it adds.

Work undertaken to date has led to numerous commercial applications, including the development of a new generation of low-sulphur-oxide burners, which have already achieved sales of more than $300-million in the US.

The CCS programme was necessitated by the realisation that coal ­ the world’s largest source of energy for stationary applications ­ is expected to retain its number-one position for the foreseeable future, despite the increasing importance of natural gas and renewable energy sources.

“The use of coal as a fuel for electricity generation in developing countries, in particular, is expected to show strong growth, and technology development is a key to capturing the economic opportunities and minimising the environmental impacts," says the IEA.



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