Solid Energy (of New Zealand) and GTL Energy today announced that they are shipping a bulk sample of New Zealand lignite to GTL Energy’s commercial scale plant, near South Heart, North Dakota, USA, where GTL Energy will process the sample into high rank coal briquettes, as well as pre-test process equipment for deployment to New Zealand.

The New Zealand coal will arrive in North Dakota in January 2010 and be processed by GTL Energy, before high grade coal briquettes are returned to New Zealand for combustion trials for Solid Energy’s customers.

This test work is part of a Joint Venture between Solid Energy and GTL Energy who have commenced permitting, completion of technical and economic feasibilities and engineering design for a coal-beneficiation plant in the South Island of New Zealand, applying GTL Energy’s technology.

“Test programs such as this are exactly why we have built this coal-beneficiation plant.” says GTL Energy CEO, Robert French. “We will be showcasing the GTL Energy technology for parties from around the world, and this plant in North Dakota enables us to process coal for consumers and resource owners, to improve the combustion and environmental characteristics of their coal.”

“The beneficiated coal will provide a higher quality coal to the consumers of the South Island,” says Brett Gamble, General Manager of Solid Energy’s, New Energy division. “We are happy to be working with GTL Energy on this next stage and we are excited about what their technology can do to utilize New Zealand’s vast and relatively untapped South Island energy resource, in a cleaner way.”

GTL Energy’s coal-beneficiation process for upgrading coal, such as North Dakota’s or New Zealand’s lignite, removes moisture prior to combustion. This improves the efficiency of the coal ensuring a reduction in emissions including CO2. “The GTL Energy technology is an environmentally responsible way to use low-rank coal, and we believe will bring significant benefit to the south island of New Zealand. “Mr French said. “This is the first of many bulk sample trials that we hope to demonstrate at our South Heart beneficiation plant, and it is an exciting moment for North Dakota, placing it firmly on the worlds cleaner coal map.”