Hazelwood Power Station
|This article is outdated. (September 2009)|
|Hazelwood Power Station|
|Location||Latrobe Valley, Victoria|
|Owner(s)||72% GDF SUEZ Australian Energy, 28% Mitsui & Co.|
|Nameplate capacity||1,600 MW|
Hazelwood Power Station, in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia is a brown-coal-fuelled base-load power station built between 1964 and 1971. The power station is of 1,600 megawatt (1,470 net) capacity, and supplies up to 25% of Victoria's base load electricity and more than 5% of Australia's total energy demand. Hazelwood produces 2.8% of Australia's CO2 emissions and 0.057% of World emissions. The station was listed as the least carbon efficient power station in the OECD in a 2005 report by WWF Australia.
International Power plc purchased Hazelwood from the State Government in 1996 with a 40 year life. The Bracks Labor Government subsequently approved an environmental effects statement in 2005 that allowed Hazelwood to move a road and a river to access the coal allocated to Hazelwood at the time of sale. There is an estimated 500 years of easily accessed coal reserves remaining in Victoria's Latrobe Valley.
Hazelwood directly employs up to 500 full-time staff and at least another (full-time) 300 contractors, with hundreds more employed during scheduled major outages.
In late 2008, the owners of Hazelwood, International Power, said the financial viability of the power station would be in question under an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), unless the company received significant compensation.
- 1 History
- 2 Environmental impacts
- 3 Asbestos
- 4 Criticisms and responses
- 5 Protest and civil disobedience at Hazelwood
- 6 Carbon capture plant
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Development of the brown coal reserves at Morwell were started by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) in 1949 as the 'Morwell Project', which included the Morwell open cut mine, and the Morwell briquette works. The Morwell Interconnecting Railway linked the power station and briquette works to the Yallourn open cut mine until 1993.
Hazelwood Power Station was approved in 1959, and was to consist of six 200 MW generating units, giving a total of 1,200 MW of generating capacity. The first unit was to enter service in 1964, and the sixth in 1971. Growing electricity demand saw a review carried out by the SECV in 1963, with commissioning of the generating units moved forward to 1969. Additional capacity was provided when in 1965 two additional generating units at Hazelwood were approved, to be commissioned in 1970 and 1971 respectively.
Hazelwood Power Station and associated mine were privatised by the Kennett government in 1996 after many years of downsizing under a 'structural efficiency' model undertaken by the then state Labour government. It was sold for $2.35 billion, and it operates as 'IPR_GDF SUEZ Hazelwood', an Australian public company, which is owned by UK company, International Power plc (91.8% share)- part of the GDF SUEZ group - and the Commonwealth Bank Group (the remaining 8.2%). The business office is near Morwell, 150 kilometres east of Melbourne. Prior to January 2011, IPR-GDF SUEZ Hazelwood had been known as International Power Hazelwood and Hazelwood Power before that.
After privatisation the new owners engaged in capital investment, with $800 million invested in Hazelwood since 1996, such as replacement of boilers, rotors, turbines and the completion of an $85 million project to reduce dust emissions by 80%.
If Hazelwood had not been sold to private interests, activist groups say the SEC (State Electricity Commission) would have shut the station down in 2005.
Hazelwood relies on brown coal deposits from the nearby Morwell open cut mine. In 2003, 17.2 million tonnes of coal was excavated by International Power Hazelwood for use by the plant which generated 12,000 gigawatt-hours. The company supplied a further 1.6 million tonnes of coal to Energy Brix Australia.
Before privatisation the power station was due to be decommissioned by the SECV by 2005, as had older plants at Newport and Yallourn. However Hazelwood had its mining licence realigned by the Victorian Government along with EES approvals to move a river and a road on 6 September 2005. This agreement ensures security of coal supply to the plant until at least 2030 by allowing access to 43 million tonnes of brown coal deposits in a realignment of Hazelwood's mining licence boundaries that were originally set in 1996. Hazelwood returned over 160 million tonnes of coal to the State Government as part of that agreement.
The agreement requires Hazelwood to reduce its estimated emissions by 34 million tonnes and caps its total greenhouse output at 445 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over its life, after which point it may be made to cease operation. However credits for investment in renewable energy and low emission technology will allow the business to operate within the cap and extend its life.
Hazelwood's West Field development involved completing a new 7.5 km section of the Strzelecki Highway, replacing over ten kilometres of the Morwell River from an old concrete pipe into a natural open channel riverine setting, and acquiring privately owned land which was earmarked for future coal supply. Environment Victoria, Greenpeace and Australian Conservation Foundation opposed the development approvals, while business groups such as Minerals Council of Australia, VECCI, Aust Industry Group and Institute of Public Affairs welcomed the Government's decision.
A two year pilot trial of a algae photobioreactor was undertaken at Hazelwood in the early 2000s by Energetix, a division of the Victor Smorgon Group. The apparatus housed algae that feed on emissions from the smoke stacks, which were then harvested and turned into biofuels. The technology Hazelwood used was developed at MIT and was licensed from Greenfuels. The trial was successful and has now concluded. Commercial application of the concept could see over 1000 hectares of algal ponds be built which would turn 1% of Hazelwood's CO2 emissions into biofuels. The photobioreactor technology was judged to be not yet commercially viable despite capturing up to 4% more CO2.
The power station would not have had access to its purchased coal from 2009 unless approvals to move road and river infrastructure were granted under the 2005 West Field EES process. The Labor Government approved the EES in 2005 so Hazelwood could access its coal reserves and operate its business until 2031. However, there is major support for the decommission of the facility amongst green groups.
The station was listed as the least carbon efficient power station in the OECD nations in a 2005 report by WWF Australia. The WWF reported that the power station produced 1.58 tonnes of CO2 per megawatt-hour of electricity generated in 2004 (official result was 1.55), which was a reduction of 6.6% from the 1996 levels of 1.66 Mt/TWh when the plant was privatised.
With a 60% increase in power generation since 1996, Hazelwood now averages up to 16.0 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year (the second highest emitter in the Latrobe Valley), which is 2.8% of Australia's total carbon dioxide emissions, and 9% of Australia's total CO2 from electricity generation.
Australia's biggest carbon capture pilot plant, and one of the largest of its type in the world, has been built at Hazelwood capturing up to 25 tonnes (0.05%) of CO2 per day in a pilot plant designed to trial new low-emission technology prior to future commercialisation.
1.31 megalitres of water was consumed per gigawatt hour of power generated in 2005. Cooling water for the power station is supplied by the Hazelwood Pondage, built for this purpose in the 1960s. The pondage is supplied with water from the Moondarra Reservoir and runoff pumped from the adjacent mine. Within the mine, water is sprayed onto the coal surfaces to reduce the chance of fire and to suppress fugitive dust.
Hazelwood allows public access to the pondage for sailing, boating and other recreational water sports. Cichlids and other tropical fish that were released into the lake by the public have established populations, including Convict cichlids (Cryptoheros nigrofasciatus) and the African cichlid spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae). Other fish include carp, goldfish (Carassius auratus), Gambusia (Gambusia holbrooki), and the native short-finned eel (Anguilla australis) and Australian smelt (Retropinna semoni).
In a 2007-2008 report, the National Pollutant Inventory rated the power station's polychlorinated dioxins and furans as "high 100", hydrochloric acid as "high 87", oxides of nitrogen as "medium 57", particulate matter 2.5 μm as "low 21", and boron & compounds as "low 15".
2005-2006 NPI data showed that Hazelwood releases 100,000 kg of boron and compounds into the air and 5,200 kg into water. Also released into the air: 7,700,000 kg hydrochloric acid, 27,000,000 kg of oxides of nitrogen, 2,900,000 kg of particulate matter 10 μm, and 0.015 kg of polychlorinated dioxins and furans.
Many pollutants are not measured.
Coal mine fire
A fire, commonly referred to as the Hazelwood Coal Mine Fire, started at the mine on 9 February 2014. It was officially considered to be controlled on 10 March 2014. The Chief Officer of the Country Fire Authority described the fire as "one of the largest, longest running and most complex fires in the State's history."
Thousands of residents in nearby towns were affected by smoke and ash from the fire. On 28 February the Chief Health Officer of Victoria advised the vulnerable groups of people in Morwell South to temporarily relocate due to the danger of PM2.5 particles. Tim Flannery questioned whether GDF Suez was taking sufficient action to keep the community informed and said the fire highlighted the need for better preparation and inquiry into the state of mines around the country, and the risks they posed to nearby communities. On 11 March 2014 Premier Dennis Napthine announced a judicial inquiry into the circumstances and impacts of the fire.
The rate of pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma among power industry workers was found to be seven times the national average. (Victorian State Government study, 2001). Latrobe Valley power industry workers die 15 years younger than the national average.
The power stations of the LaTrobe Valley used asbestos widely in their construction. The substance was banned in Victoria in 2003. However, it's estimated that 146,000 employees and contractors, who worked in SEC plants from 1921 to the 1980s, were exposed to it. Between 1976 and 2008, $52.6 million has been paid to former SEC employees by the State Government insurance authority, and a further $369 million is expected to be paid out by the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority to former employees.
In June 2010, the EPA confirmed it was investigating reports asbestos could be in one of Hazelwood Power Station's smoke stacks. A former worker claims to have lost his job after speaking out about asbestos at a health and safety meeting. Speaking to The Express (Fairfax paper) he said, "It is not just in the stacks, it's everywhere, the place is riddled with it, Hazelwood has no duty of care to its workers or the public." Another worker, trained in asbestos identification, said for years Hazelwood management had ignored workers' concerns. International Power Hazelwood spokesperson Neil Lawson has responded, "It is well documented that there is still an amount of contained asbestos material which, if required, is being progressively and safely removed by specialised licensed contractors during major plant outages and maintenance activities."  The same newspaper subsequently reported comments by the EPA that the Hazelwood business had no case to answer and that asbestos fibres were not present in its smokestacks.
Criticisms and responses
The Australian Conservation Foundation have put the $400 million 2005 Hazelwood expansion in context by comparing it to Victoria's five-star energy efficient homes standard, which is expected to save 200,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per annum. The ACF reason that Hazelwood's operations cancel out that benefit every four days. ACF Executive director Don Henry has said he would follow formal objections with legal action to prevent the grant of 'new' coal to IPRH. Most of the West Field coal reserves were allocated to Hazelwood in 1996 in the privatisation process. The ACF never mounted any legal objection to Hazelwood's allocated coal reserves.
Environment Victoria have pushed for alternative baseload generation through: biomass energy, wave energy, geothermal energy, new combined cycle gas fired generation plants, new cogeneration facilities, or increased imports of baseload electricity from interstate. In January 2005, the Clean Energy Future Group together with Environment Victoria released the report "Toward Victoria's Clean Energy Future", a plan to cut Victoria's Greenhouse gas emissions from electricity by 2010. It largely focused on cleaner alternatives to Hazelwood, and warned that continued support of coal-fired power development would lock the State into CO2 emissions that would dwarf any current proposed measures for reducing emissions.
Greenpeace has pushed for a target of 20% clean energy for Victoria by 2020, allowing Hazelwood to be retired, and to invigorate the La Trobe Valley as a clean energy hub.
In June 2009, an anonymous letter purporting to come from the US-based Earth Liberation Front was sent to the home of the CEO of the power station, Graeme York. The letter threatened to harm property, but did not threaten physical harm against any individuals or animals, despite being portrayed as such in commercial media due the ELF activities overseas. ELF media spokesperson Jason Crawford defended the letter, but was unable to confirm that it had been sent by his organisation. The ELF letter was publicly condemned by Greenpeace, whose activists had engaged in nonviolent direct action at the plant six weeks earlier.
In late 2009, in response to the "Switch Off Hazelwood—Switch on Renewables" protests, the state of Victoria introduced penalties of one years' imprisonment for trespass, and two years' imprisonment for damaging, interfering, tampering, or attaching something to electricity infrastructure. This was legislated in the Electricity Industry Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Act 2009 (Vic). The legislation has been welcomed by the power industry but criticised by green groups for supposedly criminalising non-violent civil disobedience, and has been compared to the lockdown powers of the Major Events Act 2009, which has been reportedly used to intimidate and disperse peaceful protesters in NSW.
Protest and civil disobedience at Hazelwood
- 11 August 2005
- Around 50 student environmentalists and Greenpeace volunteers unfurled a "Quit Coal" banner outside the plant while 12 activists occupied the brown coal pit, with two locking themselves to coal dredging equipment. This action drew world wide attention to Hazelwood's Co2 emissions and their harmful impacts on the global climate.
- 6 November 2008
- A group of seven people protesting against Australia's inaction on climate change walked onto the site of the Hazelwood power station and temporarily stopped one conveyor belt which carry coal from the mine to the power station. No production was lost due to good reserve bunker stocks of coal itself.
- 28 March 2009
- A group of around 30 people took part in a rally at the power station ahead of the 2009 Earth Hour. Two protesters chained themselves to a conveyor belt, briefly disrupting the supply of coal between the Hazelwood mine and the power plant. Again, electricity production was not disrupted from the power station despite large community outcry against the plant's operations. Three people were charged by Victoria Police for unspecified reasons.
- 21 May 2009
- 14 Greenpeace members illegally entered the site and thought they had temporarily shut down coal production after chaining themselves to an excavator. That 'excavator' was out for routine maintenance and again, no production from either mine or station was lost. All seven were later charged by Victoria Police.
September 2009 rally
- 13 September 2009
- A large mass civil disobedience rally, the largest of its kind at any Australian power station, was undertaken by a network of organisations under the banner Switch Off Hazelwood. An estimated 500 people participated in near freezing conditions, with many camping nearby on the previous night on Hazelwood's own property beside the pondage. The rally was supported by organisations and groups including the Australian Conservation Foundation, Environment Victoria and the Australian Greens. Many of the participants were families and many were professional activists from Melbourne and interstate. In the week before the rally, a community meeting entitled "Clean energy or coal: What future for Latrobe jobs?" was held in the nearby town of Morwell. A large number of Hazelwood employees turned up to engage the protest organisers in a spirited debate about the reality of local jobs.
- Organisers liased with Victoria police prior to and during the demonstration and publicly declared intentions to undertake "peaceful civil disobedience" by entering the grounds of the power station to place symbolic decommission notices on the plant building. The organisers also distributed guidelines asking participants to use "peaceful protest tactics" and held a number of trainings on civil disobedience and nonviolence prior to the event.
- The company responded by installing a temporary perimeter fence around the plant, with police helicopters and mounted police patrolling the site on Saturday evening. On the Sunday, police contingencies included a large number of officers on foot deployed within the perimeter fence. Many were issued with handheld video recorders and digital cameras and filmed people attending the rally. Police also deployed personnel in dingies in adjacent pondage lakes. A large number of activists were also deployed video recording during the day.
- The rally began at 11am with speeches from Australian Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, Dave Sweeney from the Australian Conservation Foundation, author David Spratt and Melbourne based paediatrician Merryn Redenbach, amongst others, with several speakers stressing that protesters had no argument with police or plant workers and emphasising the organising group's calls for new wind turbine, solar water and insulation manufacturing capacity to be developed in the Latrobe Valley.
- The group then marched to the front of the power station, where several participants, including some dressed in mock Carbon Police outfits, climbed temporary fencing in an attempt to issue a "Community Decommission Order" to the power station.
- Part of the crowd advanced on the temporary fencing and some participants and police clashed making a mockery of the organiser claims to a peaceful event. 22 people were arrested during the rally, many for illegally trespassing on Hazelwood property after climbing the temporary fence. One person was also charged with assault after a police officer was allegedly "thrown backwards" while trying to stop a protester who was running towards the plant gates after scaling a temporary fence. Many protesters were officially charged and subsequently were recipients of diversion orders and various 'fines'. Many were able to donate their fines to charities of their choice which in some cases included their own activist groups.
- Supporters of the protest said that nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience was necessary because other avenues to achieve change, such as petitions, letters, rallies and community meetings, had been explored and exhausted. Environment groups had also lodged application to have the impact of greenhouse gas emissions considered in the Environmental Effects Statement which approved the access to Hazelwood's own coal fields in 2005.
- The rally was featured in the main group of lead items on every Victorian television and radio news broadcast that same evening, and in Newspapers the following morning. Hazelwood has subsequently installed permanent fencing marking its property boundary.
October 2010 rally
Another rally took place at the station at 11am on 10 October 2010. Approximately 150 people attended, protesters were well behaved and there were no arrests., most travelling on the train from Melbourne. The rally coincided with the International Day of Climate Action (10/10/2010). There were two training sessions held prior to the rally for participants in non-violent direct action, these occurred 18 September and 2 October at Trades Hall, Melbourne.
In preparation for the rally, around 250 Police officers were stationed around the perimeter of the station. The Hazelwood business had erected several kilometres of permanent fencing in contrast to the previous years rally, before which only temporary fencing was erected.
The march caused local roads to be closed to the disruption of local community. The march to the station began at 11am and upon reaching the station's entrance, participants heard speeches from several speakers including Australian Greens Eastern Victorian upper house candidate Samantha Dunn and Beyond Zero Emissions' Mark Ogge. The event was MC'ed by Rod Quantock. Protesters were not allowed access beyond the road reserve outside the station itself.
Following speeches, participants then built the largest ever replica Solar Thermal plant.
Carbon capture plant
In July 2009, International Power opened a carbon capture and storage demonstration plant at Hazelwood power station. The process takes emissions from the power station smoke stacks, extracts CO
2 and uses a chemical process to turn it into calcium carbonate. The resulting solid can then be stored above ground or sold to industry. This process will capture 25 tonnes or 0.05% of daily emissions from the plant.
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