Clean energy researcher Environmental Clean Technologies may start another coal war in Victoria as it launches a feasibility study to build a Coldry plant in the LaTrobe Valley.

Coldry is a patented process developed by ECT that is said to de-water brown coal, or essentially bake it into cleaner-burning black coal, creating zero emissions.

Brown coal, or lignite, is a controversial resource. It has a heating value “only about one-quarter of that for black coal”, according to the federal governent’s resources advisory, Geoscience Australia.

Victoria is the only State that produces brown coal. Environmental lobby group Environment Victoria says brown coal “fuels 80 per cent of the electricity generated in Victoria, making it a huge contributor to our total greenhouse gas emissions”.

The study will look into possible sites, funding and value-adds for the local community.

Environmental Clean Technologies (ASX:ESI) chairman Glenn Fozard said the project aligned with the Victoria State government’s ‘Future Use of Brown Coal’ policy.

Although the government was committed to net-zero emissions from brown coal, Coldry was a zero-CO2 process and therefore could work within the policy, he said.

“The industrial and political environment are now fully supportive of technologies that deliver low or zero-emissions solutions to higher value use of lignite,” he said.

Environmental Clean Technologies is building a similar plant in India, with NLC India and NMDC.

“This program holds significant short-term interest in providing increased energy security through diversification of Victoria’s energy solutions and longer-term interest as a gateway enabler to the deployment of High Efficiency Low Emissions electricity production and low emissions chemical separation, like hydrogen from Victoria’s world class lignite assets.”

However, the environmental movement disagrees.

Cam Walker from Friends of the Earth Melbourne told Stockhead that the State government’s emissions targets does not allow for any new coal projects unless they include carbon capture technology. He didn’t believe other technologies were considered or included in the policy.

“We think that the time for new investment in coal is over. We think it’s a distraction from the task at hand,” he said.

“We would be very disturbed if there were any new coal projects approved by the State government. Any approval would be inconsistent with the government’s commitment for our state to be carbon neutral by mid-century.”

ESI shares closed yesterday at 1.2c, valuing the company at $55.6 million. The shares have traded between 0.8c and 2.3c over the past year.