A REDUCED cost in coal mining, creation of 300 jobs and a step in the right direction for Australia to be self sufficient in producing fuel.
These are some of the possibilities that might occur if coal-to-liquid production ramps up in the Bowen Basin.
Coal tailings, a waste by-product created when mining coal, can be used to make petrol, diesel and jet fuel.
China is one of the leaders in coal-to-liquid technology, with the country now having the capacity to produce a million barrels of fuel a day from the process.
Now, in Australia, a home-grown company has its eyes set on the Mackay region to establish the industry here.
CTL Projects technical director David Archibald has been travelling the region with Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen this week to discuss the concept with mining companies.
The pair said an 8000-barrel-a-day fuel plant could be created and operating within five years in the Mackay region.
"The reason I jumped on board with this was because David said it would create 300 jobs for my region," Mr Christensen said. Mr Archibald said the process of using coal tailings to create fuel was first developed in Germany in the 1920s.
"There are two main process routes (to create fuel) both of them start by burning low-value coal in pure oxygen," he said.
Ideally, CTL Projects would like to see a network of mines having access to a pipeline so coal tailings can be sent directly to an oxygen plant to be used to make fuel.
About 20% - 30% of coal production results in coal tailings. The waste by-product costs about $5 -$10 per tonne to manage on site.
Mr Archibald said CTL Production would create a market for the tailings.
"We will pay them for the energy content of the coal. The big benefit for them will be disposing of the tailings, which will lower their operation costs."
- Coal tailings are usually stored in ponds at mine sites.
- It's predicted one tonne of tailings will produce one barrel of fuel
- A barrel of product holds 159 litres.