CCS Rumblings in Gippsland

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Our governments, both State and Federal, are persisting with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects despite the fact that any use of coal, especially brown coal, is moribund in a world of worsening climate change. The latest proposal is to burn and turn brown coal into hydrogen and ship it to Japan.  This is another attempt by government, in a long drawn out saga, to save the dying brown coal industry. It illustrates that governments – both politicians and bureaucrats – either do not take the threat of climate change seriously and/or do not understand the basic science.

Another local project of this kind is CarbonNet which has been around since 2009. It is supported by Canberra and Spring St, promoted by the Earth Resources department, and is a continuing exercise in another futile attempt at CCS. The (feasibility?) project involves capturing the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from the Valley generators, compressing it into a liquid, transporting this liquid offshore and injecting it deep underground in the Gippsland basin. There are a large number of problems with a project of this nature including the fact that the actual capture of the CO2 is inefficient so a substantial proportion of the greenhouse gas is still emitted to the atmosphere. Also a substantial amount of extra energy is required to capture, compress, and transport it. Almost certainly it fails any economic criteria but most of all any power generators in this scenario will still emit large amounts of CO2.

The coal to hydrogen proposal is another attempt at CCS which governments have been throwing money at for a long time without any tangible result. To satisfy any credible climate change criteria the process involved should be CO2 neutral. As far as I am aware there is no brown coal use that satisfies this criteria with one or possibly 2 exceptions – using the coal as a fertiliser and burning it in pyrolysis generators. With regards the latter one assumes that the scientists and engineers have examined this option in detail and found it was not feasible. In theory at least the pyrolysis process should be carbon negative. Financially supporting CarbonNet (and the current hydrogen proposals?) by governments is an example of ‘good money after bad’ showing our taxpayer funds at work in another ‘dead end’.

The Latrobe Valley is approaching a critical period. Hazelwood will soon be closing. Governments are funding the unnecessary (CCS) and the absurd (see Hazelwood Barramundi ) and appear paralysed to act in any meaningful way. On top of this it now appears that there may be labour problems at Loy Yang. Where, oh where, is the ‘just transition’, or even a modicum of fairness in the treatment of ordinary people?