Technical Market Support

Maintenance of Database on Trace Elements In Internationally Traded Thermal Coals

Technical Market Support » Thermal Coal

Published: March 10Project Number: C17052

Get ReportAuthor: Les Dale, Ken Riley | Les Dale Consulting, CSIRO Energy Technology


Increasing concern about the environmental impact of trace elements from the utilisation of coal for electricity generation has focused attention on the levels of environmentally sensitive trace elements in thermal coals. Australia is one of the major suppliers to the highly competitive international thermal coal market. Australian export thermal coals generally contain low levels of trace elements of major environmental concern relative to coals exported by other producer countries and this may provide a competitive edge when the environmental impact of trace elements is an operational issue.


In previous ACARP projects a database was established on the levels of environmentally sensitive elements in Australian and other internationally traded coals. This was achieved by obtaining shipment and superintending samples of coals destined for use in overseas power plants. The samples were chemically analysed using national and international standard methods. This insured consistency of results free from inter-laboratory bias. The database therefore allowed valid comparisons to be made between Australian export thermal coals and the products offered for export by its major competitor countries on the international market.



The aim of this project was to further upgrade the existing database with trace element data on internationally traded thermal coals and update the CSIRO website as new data became available during the term of the project.



With the addition of 39 new coals from this project the database now contains data on the levels of environmentally sensitive trace elements in 165 samples of international coals which can be compared with the data for the existing 90 Australian coals. The database is the most comprehensive compilation of the trace element profiles of coals available on the international thermal coal market. Data on significant numbers of samples from Indonesia, South Africa, Russia and Colombia are available as well as on other exporting countries including China, Poland, Ukraine, Venezuela and the United States of America.


The database demonstrates that Australian coals have generally lower levels of trace elements of major environmental concern, namely mercury, arsenic, selenium, cadmium, boron and fluorine, than those supplied by competitor countries.


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