07/11/2014 - 15:25

Next step for SW carbon sink

07/11/2014 - 15:25

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As global calls for reducing greenhouse gas emissions get louder, WA is quietly progressing its own carbon capture and storage project

Next step for SW carbon sink
Work is under way at Harvey to develop a carbon capture and storage project. Photo: Jeff Henderson, DMP

Western Australia’s only carbon capture and storage project, tipped to cost more than $1 billion, will not be affected by the slashing of almost $500 million from the federal government’s flagship CCS program.

The CCS project south of Mandurah, at Harvey, is in the early stages of seeking to demonstrate it can capture carbon dioxide from the industrial Collie and Kwinana areas and safely sequester it underground.

This would allow participating major energy users to continue to use coal and other fossil fuels, while dramatically lowering their greenhouse gas emissions.

The project, which is a public private partnership, has contractual grant arrangements with the Commonwealth that will not be affected by its decision to cut $459.3 million in national CCS research over three years.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has repeatedly said Australia’s energy needs will continue to be dependent on coal, has been criticised for cuts to CCS research announced in the May budget.

Criticism flared again last week following a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warning that, to limit global warming to 2º degrees Celsius, all fossil fuel power generation without CCS would need to be phased out almost entirely by 2100.

Department of Mines and Petroleum carbon strategy coordinator Dominique Van Gent said the WA government was helping fund the first stage geological component of the project before joint venture partners picked up the majority of the bill.

“The partnership is unusual but the WA government has always assisted and facilitated companies with projects,” Mr Van Gent told Business News.

“This is a bit unique because the federal government funding was based on there needing to be a partnership between the state government and industry.”

A total of $52 million in Commonwealth funding has been allocated to WA’s CCS project, $30 million of which is for the DMP and $22 million for the joint venture partnership.

The state has allocated an additional $12 million. In August, the DMP awarded a $5.7 million contract to DDH1 Drilling for further work on shoring up the suitability of the area for keeping carbon dioxide stored long term.

As the project progresses, joint venture partners Synergy, Alcoa of Australia, Premier Coal and Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers, whose operations contribute to carbon emissions in Collie and Kwinana, have agreed to jointly fund the capturing and pipeline infrastructure, likely to cost more than $1 billion.

The CCS project is being developed in Harvey because of its close to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from the Collie and Kwinana industrial areas. In addition, Harvey’s underground Lesueur sandstone formation is well suited for geosequestration.

Mr Van Gent said the DMP continued to engage with 125 directly affected landowners and neighbouring communities and explain the technology, which has the potential to be a game changer if it can be proved to be commercially viable or if governments begin regulating its use.

“It’s gone extremely well, we’ve worked with the community a lot ... technically the results are looking very good and we’re very hopeful that it will give business the opportunity in the future to make decisions that have CCS as one of their options,” Mr Van Gent said.

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