When the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program was established in 2009 by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd it was a means of securing a low-emissions future for coal by supporting the construction and demonstration of large-scale integrated CCS projects in Australia. The plans were grand and taxpayer money invested was huge (2 billion dollars Australia wide). But that all changed over the ensuing years as projects fell over, money was pulled out of the kitty and financial commitments decreased.
However, Victoria’s CarbonNet Project survived. Managed by the Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources and administered by the State government, CarbonNet continues to receive financial support from both State and Commonwealth funders through a formal governance structure.
The domination of Victoria’s brown coal electricity generation in Latrobe Valley had abundant carbon emissions that could integrate capture technologies and be transported via pipeline to store in underground geological formations offshore in the Gippsland Basin. Move to the present in 2018 though and it is a vastly different picture than the project that was originally proposed.
In less than 15 years there will only be two operational coal fired power stations (LoyYang A & B). The proposed Dual Gas project never eventuated, Hazelwood power station has closed, Yallourn will cease operating in 2032 and there will be no new High Energy Low Emissions (HELE) power station built in Latrobe Valley due to the consequential subsidence and aquifer depletion from dewatering of the coal pits. The huge costs that would be involved just to build a pipeline from diminishing sources already has the CarbonNet project as a non-event.
Meanwhile, key technical elements for containment, injectivity & storage potential and impacts are being completed. Many reports can be found on this site – https://www.globalccsinstitute.com/publications/CarbonNet
The CarbonNet project had two focus areas being the offshore southern flanks of the Gippsland Basin in Commonwealth waters and the nearshore area off Golden Beach under Victorian State government jurisdiction.
The site preferred by CarbonNet is the nearshore option with injection 7km from shoreline at 1km depth. The prioritised storage site is an anticline (subsurface dome structure) located approximately 4km offshore, and expected to have a capacity of at least 125 Million tonnes (25 years CO2 injection x 5Mtpa). This site was also chosen because it was the least cost and any further out could impact on existing hydrocarbon production. So, are they really serious with CCS to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions or is this just a very expensive research and development program.
CarbonNet are currently in Project Development and Commercial Establishment stage with a 3D marine seismic survey (MSS) completed February 2018. See Legal Liability page. GipNet will complete environmental baseline validation and an appraisal well is planned to be drilled in 2019 to retrieve rock samples to allow scientists to assess the rock properties that will form the ‘cap rock’ and hold the stored CO2 in place.
Source -The CarbonNet Project Overview and Update June 2017 IEAGHG Monitoring Research Network Meeting https://ieaghg.org/docs/11mon/Session6_Talk2_Hoffman.pdf
Also needed is evaluation of transport pipeline routes to the selected injection site along with and an appropriate regulatory framework. Next steps are attracting private investment but first there needs to be suitable potential carbon capture plants, which, ironically, are reducing. Last step is transitioning CarbonNet to the private sector around 2020.
So, at the end of the Federal government’s financial commitment in 2020 what can we expect next.
Financially, if the CEFC bill passes as commented on this site and the Corporation is allowed to invest in CCS technology, will that be enough of an incentive for the private sector to invest in capturing carbon emissions sometime in the next couple of decades. More importantly, for the promoters of carbon storage how would CCS then mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and help address climate change if the problems exist now.
Without more significant taxpayer funding, you would assume the CCS concept in Victoria would be doomed to failure.