White Energy chairman Travers Duncan.

White Energy chairman Travers Duncan. Photo: Jim Rice

THE White Energy chairman, Travers Duncan, defended the prospects for the company's binderless coal briquetting technology, despite one shareholder telling the annual meeting the performance of the company was ''disgusting''.

Mr Duncan and fellow director John Kinghorn are among a number of coal industry executives under investigation by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, which is examining the issue of coal licences under the previous Labor government.

Mr Duncan said suppression orders prevented him taking any questions about the ICAC inquiry at the annual meeting, adding, ''I thank you for your tolerance in this matter during these difficult times''. All resolutions put to the meeting were carried, but one shareholder questioned whether White Energy would ever profit from the coal upgrading technology on which it had spent hundreds of millions of dollars.

He cited research published last year by then Citi analyst David Haddad, that the new technology would not work.

''We've had many years now of losses … but you're still determined as directors to go down this pathway, even though coal prices have declined,'' the shareholder said.

Noting the company's shares had fallen from above $4 to 28.5¢ yesterday, the shareholder said ''the market's telling you we're very unhappy with what's going on here. I don't know how anybody could support any of these directors … the performance is disgusting''.

White Energy shares plummeted in late 2011, becoming the worst performing stock in the market that year, after its Indonesian partner withdrew coal supply from their briquetting PT Kaltim Supacoal's Tabang project - now subject of litigation in Singapore.

The managing director, Brian Flannery, said the depressed coal market would provide acquisition opportunities for White Energy in the US and Indonesia.

Work on the binderless coal briquetting technology was proceeding at the Cessnock plant, he said, with particular interest from South African coal companies trialling the process to upgrade coal fines.

''Many of these companies generally are paying for this work now,'' Mr Flannery said. ''We did start off, obviously we had to prove the technology was working, so we had to do quite a bit of work the year before last at our own cost, but right now most of these companies are paying for this work - they're paying substantial money to bring containers of coal back to Cessnock for testing, and we have a team there that's working every day on testing different types of coal.

''We haven't got any producer over the line yet to sign up. We think we're very close.''

Application of the briquetting technology to coking coal was also being trialled with Bluescope Steel, he said, with a 50-tonne trial completed at Port Kembla.