Ahrko Systems has developed a revolutionary low cost method to dry brown coals, sands and ores.

Background

Coal energy generation requires wet coals like brown coals to be dried before use. Because the drying stage is very energy intensive and costly, it is a key driver of operating expenditures for all commercial projects.  Brown coal is a soft material that has a much lower carbon content than black coal and a higher moisture content.  High moisture content increases the energy content required to generate electricity and results in higher levels of pollutants compared to NSW black coals which are both more efficient and lower polluting. As a result, brown coal provides only 25% of the heating value of black coal, but has a low sulphur and ash content compared to black coals.  Reducing the moisture content of brown coal by drying improves energy efficiency and reduces emissions ultimately producing a much more efficient black coal equivalent product. An efficient drying process reduces costs but more importantly lifts the calorific value of each tonne of brown coal burned and reducing the cost of generation and reducing environmental emissions.

Drying other minerals has a similar cost and energy saving benefit.

Product

The Ahrko system uses the principle of diluted phase pneumatic conveying and variable temperature air-driven vortexes to calibrate the drying process to customer specifications. For example, the system can be calibrated to remove as little as 5-10% of moisture from brown coals to meet the specifications of La Trobe Valley power stations in Victoria, and up to 85% of moisture by pre-heating the air-driven vortex up too 200degC to meet the needs of brown coal value added product manufacturers producing briquettes for export or fertilisers to remediate pastureland.  A comparable Ahrko system costs 10% of the cost of a comparable competing system ($10m compared to up to $100m) and can be deployed on a zero cost placement model for a per tonne royalty, making the drying process both efficient and very attractive for customers.

Target Market

Ahrko’s initial target markets are mineral sands and brown coal power generators in Victoria.  Markets to be developed over time include various sands including mineral, silica and fracking sands, and ores predominantly iron and nickel.

Progress

With the assistance of PKF, Ahrko has bootstrapped itself using the R&D tax incentive and a long term relationship with the University of Melbourne funded by a $250,000 grant from the Australian Research Council to 2020 to support development of the technology.  Ahrko has been assisted with in kind support from energy Australia and GHD, Energy Australia’s global engineering partner.   Ahrko has proved its technology and is seeking first sales.