E.ON has announced that it has successfully started burning coal in pure oxygen - called 'oxyfuel' - in a move that could create a new generation of clean coal-fired power stations in the UK.
The test was carried out at the company's Power Technology facility next to the 2,000MW Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power station.
The work, which is continuing, saw coal burned at Power Technology's combustion test facility in pure oxygen.
Once the effects of such a combustion are further understood, the next step could be to 'capture' the pure carbon dioxide that results from the process and to store it underground so that it will never be released into the atmosphere.
Bob Taylor, E.ON UK Board member with special responsibility for Innovation, said:
"This is a major step for us and our industry. It is early days and we're studying the effects of such a process very closely but it gives us the possibility of creating a whole new generation of coal-fired power stations that do not contribute to climate change.
"We're looking at a number of potential ways of doing that - including 'scrubbing' out the carbon dioxide with amine and gasifying the coal - but it's clear that we need a number of options as we battle against global warming.
"Here at E.ON we really want to change the way that we produce, distribute and think about energy.
"Oxyfuel might not sound very glamorous but it could well be vital in the years to come."
E.ON UK has already lodged a S36 application to build two new cleaner coal-fired units at its Kingsnorth power station in Kent and the oxyfuel process - or amine scrubbing - could be bolted on in future years to make the units clean.
The company is also carrying out a feasibility study into an integrated gasification combined cycle power station (where coal is gasified and hydrogen becomes the fuel used to generate electricity) at Killingholme in Lincolnshire.