Researchers are mixing cane mulch with coal to create a lower-emissions fuel source.

An international team has analysed the impacts of combining crop residue such as sugar cane mulch with coal in a chemical engineering process known as gasification, to generate electricity.

“We used a simulation platform to model and assess the impacts of combining this gasification with carbon capture and storage technologies to generate an environmentally friendly power source,” said University of Queensland PhD candidate Liang Cao, who was part of the team.

“The model proved we could not only generate electricity without carbon emissions, but could also remove existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

Mr Cao said carbon negative technologies could help countries achieve their Paris Agreement goals.

“We focused our modelling and analysis on China, as it is the largest manufacturing country in the world and is facing serious problems around air pollution and huge carbon dioxide emissions,” he said.

“Our paper provides critical insights for designing a strategy in China to harness air-quality benefits while laying the foundation for achieving negative carbon emissions in the long run.”

Mr Cao said the results could be applied in countries such as Brazil and India, which also face serious air pollution from biomass burning.

“It could also provide Australia with a smooth transition from high-carbon emission electricity production to low-carbon emissions.”

Associate Professor Xi Lu from Tsinghua University said with full implementation of a carbon market in China, low-carbon technology could prove to be more economical than existing coal-fired powered plants.

The study is accessible here.