A CONTROVERSIAL plan to inject waste CO2 from a coal-fired power station into an aquifer of the Great Artesian Basin has been met with calls for the project to be abandoned or rejected.
Swiss mining giant Glencore has recently completed its final Environmental Impact Statement on a plan to capture waste CO2 from the Millmerran Power Station in southern Queensland and compress the gas into liquid form, before transporting it 260km further west to Moonie. Its subsidiary Carbon Transport and Storage Company is planning to do it as a three-year trial.
But the plans have been strongly opposed by the local agricultural industry, with concerns it may harm the Precipice Sandstone aquifer, that is used for livestock and drinking water.
Many have been calling for the government to intervene and strengthen its protections over the GAB, which are in place for major polluting activities like coal mining and coal seam gas – but not carbon capture and storage.
Beef Central provided a comprehensive analysis of the concerns in February – with the main concern being that it could significantly increase the acidity of the resource.
CTSCo says its trial site is a long way from any agricultural operations and is unlikely to harm stock water. It says the waste is going into a part of the aquifer where the water is brackish and has very high fluoride levels.
“The Precipice Sandstone aquifer identified by CTSCo for carbon dioxide storage is 2.3km underground – this is much deeper than the aquifers currently used for agricultural in the region,” the company said in a statement.
“Not a single agricultural producer is currently drawing or using water from this aquifer within 50km of CTSCo’s proposed storage site.”
Ned Hamer, who is a hyrdrogeologist and principal of groundwater consulting practice Earth Science, has disputed this claim saying the water is suitable for livestock at the 2.3km.
CTSCo says it has been open and transparent about its plans, meeting with local landholders and receiving reviews from independent experts, including the Australian Government Independent Expert Scientific Committee, the Office of Groundwater Impact Assessment and CSIRO.
Beef Central has contacted CSIRO to discuss its role in the process and its assessment of the project – this article will be update with any potential response.
Calls for Govt intervention
With many agricultural lobby groups and politicians speaking up about the project in recent weeks, representative group Farmers for Climate Action has called for Federal Government intervention.
“It’s fantastic to see MPs from both sides of politics speaking out about this proposal – Federal Nationals MP Colin Boyce and Queensland state Labor Water Minister Glenn Butcher,” chief executive officer Natalie Collard said.
“We hope Water Minister Tanya Plibersek explores her Ministerial powers to veto this proposal.
“Asking polluters whether they think their projects will cause harm is not doing due diligence. This proposal should be refused, now, and all future projects planning on injecting heavy metals into farming water should be rejected.
“It’s time we hold polluters accountable and prioritise water security and food security, which are key planks of national security. Having a stable, locally grown food supply is not optional.”
Project to have “no impact on nationally protected matters”
Beef Central contacted the office of environment minister Tanya Plibersek to see whether there were any plans to intervene. A spokesperson from the environment department said the project did not trigger any protections to the Great Artesian Basin as it was not a coal seem gas or large coal mining development.
“Glencore’s proposed Surat Basin Carbon Capture and Storage Project was referred to the department and determined not to be a controlled action under national environment law as is unlikely to result in a significant impact on nationally protected matters,” the spokesperson said.
“This means that the Australian Government does not need to approve the project under national environmental law.”
Decision to be made next February
The project is now with the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, which is an independent regulator of the state’s environmental laws. It will now determine whether CTSCo has adequately responded to the submissions in its EIS and will decide whether it can proceed to the next step.
It is expected to make a final decision on the EIS in February next year.
Qld environment minister Leanne Linard said while the process was happening independent of the minister, she was confident in the department’s process.
“There are strict regulatory requirements associated with the assessment of Carbon Capture and Storage projects in Qld under the Environmental Protection Regulation 2019,” Ms Linard said.
“I am confident that the rigorous assessment being undertaken will address any environmental concerns associated with the project, including consideration of potential impacts to groundwater in the GAB.”