Saturday, January 31, 2009

The truth begins to emerge

Ambre Energy has released an Initial Advice Statement(IAS) for their proposed Felton coal-to-liquids & CO2 project. This coincides with the publication by the EPA of the draft Terms of Reference for the so-called "Felton Clean Coal Demonstration Project". For full details, including the opportunity to comment, go to

This IAS is the 3rd from Ambre in 12 months, and is remarkable for its lack of detail. The 1st IAS (the Initial IAS), dated Feb 2008, ran to 33 pages. The 2nd, dated July 2008, has 45 pages, but the 3rd, dated December 2008, has only 16 pages.

Perhaps we should look elsewhere for the finer details. How about these snippets from (Nov 2008) -

Ambre Energy coal gasification converts 95pc of coals carbon into synthetic gas (CO + H2); but where to put the CO2?

Felton Locals were more than happy with the wider economic benefits - despite minor downsides - Jason Russell, Exploration Manager, Ambre Energy, told Gas Week.(
What planet does he live on???) Ambre Energy - which planned to list in 2009 - would make money with its planned new coal mine but it would also make dust, huge piles of coal-ash and CO2; and would crack underground water systems. Ambre planned to sell purified CO2, (as does Wesfarmers in Western Australia, from its ammonia plant). Tree-planting on ash piles: The idea was it would plant trees and keep dust down by water spraying supplemented with dust suppressant agents.

Ambre Energy’s giant coal mine plan: ship CO2 1200 kilometers to Moomba; if price of carbon gets high enough

Ambre Energy's planned giant coal mine generation were said to create units one-half to one-third of CO2 from a conventional coal fired power station. Typical sub-critical coal fired power stations generate carbon dioxide at approximately 1000kgCO2/MWh, it said. However the cost of shipping carbon to Moomba was over $20/ tonne so it was cheaper to pay the carbon permit price, Jason Russell, Exploration Manager, Ambre Energy told Gas Week.

Ambre Energy’s giant Queensland coal mine will use or destroy ground water resources in the coal seam zone of Walloon coal measure, and Hodgson Creek.

Ambre Energy’s plans for a gigantic coal mine, fuel plant and CO2 dump near Toowoomba, Queensland was frank in its report of the impact of water resources; ‘The water from these resources (is) fully allocated to the farming community, discussions will be held with DNRW as to the process required to access these resources'. Will damage groundwater: 'Initially mining will intersect ground water resources in the Walloon coal measure and although unlikely, may intersect groundwater in the alluvials of Hodgson Creek'.

Or how about this from Ambre Energy's submission to the Federal Government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Green Paper -

Ironically, although coal gasification is seen as our best chance of reducing the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, the introduction of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2010 has the potential to impact adversely on the development of this technology in Australia for at least 2 reasons:

1. The Scheme adds to the already high commercial risks associated with these types of projects. The cost of purchasing carbon pollution permits comes on top of the high capital costs of coal gasification plants and the difficulty of attracting project finance because of the relative novelty of the technology.

2. While the technology for capturing pure CO2 from syngas is well advanced, the technology associated with geosequestration of CO2 requires further development. There is much confidence about the ultimate prospects for low-cost commercial geosequestration, but during this "gap", coal gasification plants will have no option but to purchase carbon pollution permits.

Mitigating the Negative Impacts of the Scheme
The simplest way to mitigate the negative impacts of the Scheme on proposed coal gasification projects would be to grant such projects an initial ‘holiday’ of a specified period of years during which time carbon pollution permits would be provided at no cost for all or most of the CO2 emissions generated by the project. This would have the effect of reducing some of the financial risks associated with the project.

Alternatively, financial assistance could be offered in other forms, for example, by way of government loans or loan guarantees for qualifying projects (compare the US Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Scheme).
Unless appropriate assistance is offered to these projects, there is a very strong possibility that coal gasification technology will not be established in Australia by commercial operators for many years, if ever.

So, it's not clean after all, and they want taxpayers to pay for their pollution.

Here's a suggestion - until geosequestration of CO2 is proven to work practically & economically, leave the coal in the ground and give Govt assistance to renewable energy, which is already proven, does not trash our environment, coexists easily with top quality food production, and would provide lots of jobs.

Rivers and mines don't mix

The Environmental Protection Agency website homepage has a report on recent pollution of the Fitzroy River System in Central Qld from coal mine "dewatering". Go to . Here's a snippet -

Fitzroy River Water Quality

In January/February 2008 parts of Central Queensland were hit by what may have been one-in-five-hundred-year flood affecting much of the Bowen Basin area of Central Queensland, significantly in the Nogoa, Belyando and Warrego rivers.

The Fairbairn Dam overflowed late in January, flooding the township of Emerald, resulting in the declaration of the area as a disaster zone.

A number of mines in the region were also affected by this unprecedented rainfall event. In order to allow recovery of these mines after the floods, the Environmental Protection Agency approved a number of Emergency Directions and Transitional Environmental Programs under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, allowing the affected mines to discharge flood waters to nearby streams, subject to certain conditions.

At the time the EPA issued these approvals it was identified that the longer the water remained stored in large mine pits, the greater the decrease in quality and potential effects on natural waterways, the aquatic environment and water resource users. The EPA consulted with mining companies, the Department of Natural Resources and Water (NRW) and the Emerald Shire Disaster Recovery Team before approving the discharge of entrapped flood waters from flooded mines.

Ensham Coal Mine (photos above and below), 40km east of Emerald, was one of the most severely affected of those mines, being subject to rainfall and flooding that trapped a dragline and resulted in an estimated 150,000 megalitres (ML) of floodwater being collected in the mine. The EPA authorised the mine to discharge flood waters entrapped in this mine to the Nogoa River, which ultimately flows into the Fitzroy River, under strict conditions which were based on guideline values from the Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council (ANZECC) Water Quality Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality (2000) and were designed to protect the downstream environmental values of the river – including the use of the water for agricultural and domestic purposes. In the months that this work has been undertaken, water in the river has been monitored to assess any potential impacts.

In August 2008, water quality results for Bedford Weir downstream of Ensham Coal Mine, indicated that salinity was increasing in waterways, dams and weirs downstream of the Ensham discharge and that domestic water supplies for some townships using this source for their drinking supplies were being affected.
Queensland Health issued a health alert to the community about the potential health affect of increased salinity for those members of the public having to monitor their sodium intake. Ensham Mine voluntarily ceased discharging water from the mine on 9 September.

Queensland Government response
A technical working group including a number of government agencies and experts was formed to further investigate issues associated with the situation and address these issues. Sodium levels in some drinking water supplies were found to be above the aesthetic quality parameter of 180ug/L which is potentially a health concern for people on low salt diets and bottle fed infants younger than six months. The smell and taste of the water also caused concerns for residents in the townships of Blackwater and Tieri. There were also concerns from the public that wildlife may be impacted by the elevated salinity.

Guess what? Ensham has started pumping out again. Qld Country Life report -

Deja vu for Fitzroy mine water
15/01/2009 11:03:00 AM
IN what could be described as a case of deja vu, Emerald's Ensham Resources has again been forced to temporarily discharge water into the Nogoa River to maintain production after more than 300 megalitres of water flowed into the coalmine during recent heavy rain.
With total falls of more than 120mm since December 27, 2008, in the vicinity of Ensham Mine, it has so far discharged 70ML since January 3.
It comes a year after monsoon rain and heavy flooding in the Central Highlands first prompted the mine to start discharging water into the river system.
In the nine months to September 2008, Ensham dewatered a total of 140,000ML into the river system.
The latest dewatering at the mine has renewed calls from community and industry groups for ongoing independent water quality testing of the Nogoa and other waterways in the Fitzroy Basin, and for a long-term alternative solution to mines having to dewater into waterways.

Ambre Energy propose developing a huge 13million t/year open-cut mine adjacent to Hodgson Creek in the headwaters of the Murray Darling. Where do they propose to pump the toxic water that will collect?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Floods threaten Felton project

Heavy rain at the end of November and beginning of December lead to significant flooding in Hodgson Creek. Ambre Energy plan to site their "Felton Clean Coal Project" adjacent to Hodgson Creek. Recent experience in Central Qld should serve as a warning against such developments near major water courses - the Ensham mine was flooded in early 2008, and was allowed by the EPA to "dewater" into the nearby Nogoa River. Water quality was badly affected by salts and other minerals in a large part of the Fitzroy river system, all the way to Rockhampton. After recent rain last month, Ensham has commenced "dewatering" once more.........

For a detailed look at Ambre Energy's plans for the first stage of their proposed project at Felton, go to