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Property Trends in Latrobe Valley Brown Coals and Implications for Future Utilisation


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Author Gaulton R, Wood W, Bell A


Brown coal production in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley Region (Figure 1) continues to rise and currently stands at around 50 Mt per annum. With the exception of around 2 Mt used to produce some 700 Kt of brown coal briquettes, this coal is mined by the State Electricity Commission to fuel large thermal power stations with a total installed capacity of just over 5 000 Megawatts. The moisture content of the coal as mined typically exceeds 60 per cent, making Latrobe Valley coal a markedly low rank fuel. The lack of heating value is, however, compensated for through power station design and by the fact that ash yield is very low, usually within the range of one per cent to four per cent on a dry basis. This means that compared with most other coals, the burning of Latrobe Valley brown coal produces relatively small quantities of waste products and discharges a minimal level of pollutants into the atmosphere. Even so, the inherent quality of Latrobe Valley coal does vary significantly from one area to another (Gloe, 1991; Barton et al, 1992) both on a local and a regional scale. Such variations need to be recognised and understood in order to not only realise efficiency gains in existing power stations but to properly assess resource potential for future utilisation and the application of new technologies. The principal aim of this paper is not to describe coal quality variation in detail or to speculate on the nature of and reasons for such variation. Rather, it is to simply underscore that significant differences do occur and that this is clearly a factor which needs to be considered in any evaluation of Latrobe Valley brown coal as a resource for the future.