Thursday, March 8th, 2012
International diversified resource company, Astra Resources (FWB Code: 9AR), has signed a joint venture agreement for an innovative and patented clean coal conversion technology.

The agreement, between Astra’s subsidiary, Astra Energy Technologies Pty Ltd (AET), Interecotech Pty Ltd (IET), CG Technologies Pty Ltd and Sevastyanov Vladimir Petrovich, will result in AET retaining a 75 per cent stake in the Joint Venture Company and strengthening the company’s portfolio in the field of power generation using commercially proven clean coal technology.

AET will be acquiring its 75 per cent stake in the Joint Venture Company through primarily scrip (issued by its parent, Astra Resources Plc), and is subject to the satisfactory completion of a due diligence period agreed between the Joint Venture parties. This scrip issue is intended to be within the existing Astra capital structure.

The technology pertains to the scientific process required for the manufacture of Activated Coal Water Fuel (ACWF) and the gasification of that fuel to create hydrogen enriched Syngas, which can be used as a cheaper alternative for generating electricity in modern power stations.

Astra CEO Dr Jaydeep Biswas says the company has been actively seeking an innovative clean coal conversion technology to add to its intellectual property bank as part of its broader business strategy.

“IET have developed a patented environmentally friendly and cost effective technology utilising poor quality coals for the production of ACWF and low cost hydrogen enriched Syngas, which offers a long-term alternative to oil and is an attractive fuel for the power generation industry,” Dr Biswas says.

“Any type of coal can be used as feedstock for ACWF, with low quality Lignite or brown coal being ideal.

“This creates greater energy independence for developing countries which frequently have low quality thermal coal reserves and at present import black coal or diesel for their power generation requirements.

“Astra’s coal conversion strategy will enable countries with a heavy reliance on importing costly high quality coal, which is unsustainable in the long term due to import expense and process, to use locally mined brown coal reserves for power generation thus significantly reducing generation costs.

“These brown coal reserves, which have a low, nil or negative value, will also in-turn provide a significant mining opportunity for Astra resulting and a win-win situation.

“This will have an immediate and profound effect as the coal conversion technology will help turn low quality coal reserves into a useable product.”

The cost difference between brown and black coal can be as high as $80-100 per tonne, if based on today’s prices, without taking into account the costs of logistics of transporting black coal from producer country mines to developing country power stations, which normally has a sequence of rail-port-shipping-port-rail; this logistics cost can sometimes be as high as the value of the black coal.

The development of modern coal water fuels by IET began in the late 1980’s in Russia. The technology was further developed by IET’s scientists and engineers in order to produce energy of even higher specifications, but was never marketed under the name of ACWF (currently a trade mark pending registered product). The technology has been used commercially in Novokuznetsk, Russia.

The technology is a bolt-on device for existing power stations to process low quality coal as an alternative to diesel, fuel oil and black coal.

For a 300MW black coal or diesel fuelled power station, the bolt-on device is expected to cost $ 40 million. Astra does not intend to get into stand-alone power generation, but will seek revenues from providing the technology, royalty and operating cost savings due to higher efficiency and lower fuel/logistics costs to existing power stations.

The technology is based on ultrasonic chemistry, activating coal water mixtures so coal behaves as a liquid, which provides cleaner and higher efficiency combustion. The process has undergone 30 years of development and while it was patented in late 2011 the know-how is believed to be nearly impossible to replicate.

The IET coal water fuel can be used in pulverized coal combustion (PCC) plants with great economic and environmental benefits, including:

• Significant reduction of greenhouse and noxious gas emissions CO2, NOX, SOX
• Minimising slagging of the boilers using high ash coals
• Significantly more efficient use of available energy from carbon and volatiles in the raw material compared to other processes which underburn both carbon and volatiles
• Reduction of energy input for coal preparation
• Reduction in coal preparation plant size to approximately one third of standard size
• Reduction in capital operating costs
• Reduction in fuel and import costs

The presence of water in ACWF also makes the resulting product explosion proof, and as the process converts the coal into a liquid form, delivery and dispensing of the fuel can be simplified.

Using ACWF technology, 20-30% less coal is required for the same MW output compared to a power plant which does not use ACWF using the same coal.

Additionally, the efficiency of the ICSGCC (3 Cycles) technology, utilising brown and/or black coals is estimated to be in the range of 80-85%, CO2 emissions 0.40-0.38t/MWh.

IET’s key staff includes the senior scientists and engineers who spent over thirty years on the testing and development of the technology and have extensive experience in operating the ACWF production plant.

Astra Managing Director Silvana De Cianni says with increasing reliance on global oil and natural gas resources, IET’s patented technology offers a cost effective and clean coal based alternative for heating and power generation.

“By reducing the cost of the feedstock and importation with the utilisation of coal instead of oil and gas, overall costs to produce heat and electricity are at least halved,” Ms De Cianni says.

“The high-energy coal water based fuel produced by this cutting edge process can be immediately used to replace heavy oils in oil-fed boilers of any size for heating and power generation.

“Depending on the geographical area the price per unit energy of IET’s coal water fuel may be 30 per cent to 70 per cent lower than the equivalent oil or gas.
“Heavy oil boilers are prevalent in developing countries and IET’s technology provides a fantastic low cost alternative in these markets.”

ACWF has prospective growth potential for the Central European region, with vast resources of brown coal and a high demand for low emission production of electricity, and a number of potential users in South East Asia, such as India, the Philippines and Cambodia, along with Africa and Australia have welcomed the planned opening of the ACWF plants, indicating their intention to purchase the full initial output.

Dr Biswas says Astra has the advantage of being able to receive quality returns on its proposed investment acquisition in a relatively short time frame as the first commercial plant outside of Russia will be able to begin production 12 to 24 months after the acquisition of the IP is completed.

“With this new joint venture, Astra signals its intention to become a major player in meeting increased global demand for electricity and addressing the challenges of global warming,” Dr Biswas says.

Ms De Cianni says various plants have produced and tested ACWF with excellent results.

“It is expected that customers will be able to convert PCC plants to ACWF utilising IET coal preparation and combustion technology with very low capital costs in a short space of time,” Ms De Cianni says.

“While upgrades are not required, modular diesel engine power plants burning ACWF can be slightly modified to make them economically competitive with natural gas.

“The initial and guaranteed market will serve as a parallel springboard for the quick introduction of the next step, Coal Slurry Gasification.”

The thermal and chemical properties of the ACWF produced mean higher rates of reactivity when fed into gasification or combustion reactors, with remarkable results in gas composition and heat produced.

ACWF acts as a super-charged feedstock, and can also be used for high yield, low emission production of syngas, the basis for a revolutionary new type of IGCC process.

The syngas produced utilizing this technology can be used for direct combustion in converted coal or oil-fired boilers, coal-to-liquid fuel production, electricity generation, and can replace natural gas to produce heat.

Using brown coal from Australia’s Latrobe Valley in Victoria and IET gasification technology, the estimated syngas production cost is $1 to $2/GJ, depending on the size of the gasification and price of coal.

In comparison to some other energy producers, Astra has access to a large pool of engineers and scientists, all of who have decades of experience in coal conversion technologies in Russia and Australia.

In-depth details of all processes and accompanying knowhow of the particular Integrated Coal Slurry Gasification Combined Cycle (ICSGCC)process, and employment of all key scientists forms an integral part of the Intellectual Property acquired through the joint venture.

Astra has acquired all documentation and knowhow of the technology which is covered by non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements, and will make this available to potential investors and partners.

To read more about Interecotech’s coal conversion technology click on the link to the PDF in the contact section below.

Astra Resources’ global portfolio includes gold interest in Southeast Asia, coal mine in Africa, iron ore in India, Norway and the Philippines, the production of the high-strength T-Steel technology in Hungary, carbon-efficiency businesses and the provision of mining services housing in Rockhampton, Queensland.

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