Solid Energy plans briquette plant

ALAN WOOD
Last updated 13:27 24/01/2011

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Coalminer Solid Energy has confirmed a site to start a lignite briquetting operation to test the New Zealand industrial market.

The state-owned miner said the former Mataura mine site is the preferred location to build and operate a demonstration briquetting plant to supply the industrial market with briquettes and trial their value for export.

Solid Energy has already shipped Southland lignite to a United States drying plant for commercial trial. Such plants remove water from the low-quality coal to the form the briquettes.

It has also been in a joint venture with Colorado-based GTL Energy to investigate the feasibility of building a briquetting plant.

Solid Energy general manager new energy Brett Gamble said the company had been considering three sites for the demonstration briquetting plant: the former Mataura Paper mill site, the Mataura Mine site, and the company's existing New Vale Mine.

''The paper mill option was difficult because it required significant revamping and reconfiguration to accommodate process equipment as well as cater for operational product and traffic flow, and to meet Solid Energy health and safety standards.

''The cost and duration of getting additional, reliable power supply to New Vale Mine also made that option less attractive at this time," Gamble said.

The Mataura Mine site emerged as the preferred location because it was close to a reliable power supply, had a range of transport options nearby and was already zoned industrial with some existing consents for a coal operation, he said.

Solid Energy was completing further work on technical design and marketing options before formally lodging resource consents with the Gore District Council and Environment Southland early in 2011 to build and operate the plant at the former Mataura mine site.

Gamble said that any decision about the viability of a commercial plant would only be made once the demonstration briquetting plant has successfully met the company's objective of producing low-moisture, higher-energy briquettes which have proven their value in New Zealand and international markets.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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