Port Bonython is the location of a deepwater port and proposed minerals precinct adjacent to Point Lowly in the Upper Spencer Gulf region of South Australia. It lies 16 km east-northeast of Whyalla, South Australia and approximately 250 km north-west of Adelaide, the State's capital city. The existing wharf is 2.4 kilometres long and is capable of berthing small Capesize ships with a maximum capacity of 110,000 tonnes. The wharf was established in 1982 and named after John Bonython, the founding chairman of Santos Ltd. The structure is leased to Santos Ltd. by the South Australian Government and is used for the export of hydrocarbon products.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Proposed Port Bonython Mineral Precinct
- 3 Project Status and Development Approvals
- 4 Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park
- 5 Community response
- 6 Transport & access
- 7 Port Bonython in Film & Video
- 8 References
A gas fractionation plant operated by Santos Ltd was established at Port Bonython in 1982. The plant's refinery and tank farm complex receive crude oil and gas from the Cooper Basin in outback South Australia for processing and distribution. Port Bonython is the terminus of the Moomba to Port Bonython Liquids Pipeline which is 659 km long. From Port Bonython, Santos frieghts hydrocarbon products by sea to customers across the Asia-Pacific region.
Several proposals from other companies exist for the area and are at various stages of Government approval.
Proposed Port Bonython Mineral Precinct
Port Bonython is the chosen site of a future mineral export precinct, facilitated by the South Australian State Government. As at October 2013, the precinct is likely to consist of an iron ore export facility, a fuel distribution hub and a desalination plant. Water produced by the proposed desalination plant would be piped overland, 300 km north to the Olympic Dam mine for the exclusive use of BHP Billiton.
Port Bonython Bulk Commodities Export Facility
The proposed bulk commodities export facility will be open access and managed by the Spencer Gulf Port Link consortium. The consortium includes Flinders Port Holdings, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), Leighton Contractors and Macquarie Capital. A competitive tendering process to plan, build and operate the common user Port Bonython Bulk Commodities Export Facility was facilitated by the South Australian Government with the contract awarded in 2008.
After identifying shortfalls in bulk commodities export infrastructure, four emerging mining companies formed the Port Bonython Bulk Users Group in 2008. Since the group's establishment, all four companies have pursued alternative plans for their future iron ore exports. The member companies were WPG Resources Ltd, IMX Resources, Ironclad Mining and Centrex Metals.
Prospective miners with iron ore deposits in the State's far north, including the Woomera Protected Area are the most likely to utilize the facility. WPG Resources is one such company. BHP Billiton has also expressed interest in considering Port Bonython for the potential future export of copper concentrates to China, should the Olympic Dam mine expand to an open cut operation.
Port Bonython Fuels
A fuel distribution hub and micro-refinery project known as Port Bonython Fuels was initially proposed by Scott's Transport and Stuart Petroleum in 2007. The two stage development was designed to provide a billion litres of diesel per year by road freight to mining companies around South Australia. The project's terrestrial footprint is comparable to that of the existing Santos facility. The project proposes to service tanker trucks of various classification, the largest being A-Triple size. The facility will increase shipping traffic to the existing Port Bonython wharf, where it will receive imported liquid hydrocarbons.
The project was deemed to be public infrastructure and awarded 'Crown-sponsored Status' by the South Australian Government. The development application was approved by the Development Assessment Commission and the Minister for Planning Paul Holloway in 2010. The project documentation is not publicly available.
Port Bonython Fuels was sold by Senex Energy Limited to Mitsubishi Corporation in two stages. Mitsubishi first purchased a 90% stake in 2012, then the remaining 10% in 2013. Port Bonython Fuels Ltd is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi Corporation.
As at October 2013, no announcements have been made by Port Bonython Fuels Ltd regarding plans for future construction or operation.
BHP Billiton Desalination Plant
Resource company BHP Billiton proposed to construct a reverse-osmosis seawater desalination plant at Port Bonython to provide water for the expansion of the Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine. The plant was approved by both State and Federal Governments in October, 2011. The plant has an approved capacity of up to 280 megalitres of produced water per day. At full capacity, this would result in 370 megalitres of waste brine with elevated salinity returned to the sea off Point Lowly. During their research for the preparation of the Olympic Dam Expansion Draft Environmental impact Statement, BHP's contract scientists discovered that the region's population of Giant Australian Cuttlefish was genetically distinct and that it was vulnerable to increased salinity and changes in pH, particularly during embryo development.
Construction of the proposed desalination plant at Port Bonython is yet to commence.
Project Status and Development Approvals
As of November 1st, 2013, the following projects' approval and development status are:
- Port Bonython Fuels - Mitsubishi Corporation - approved by South Australian Government in 2010 - construction yet to commence
- Desalination Plant - BHP Billiton - Capacity 280 ML per day / 137 GL per year - approved by South Australian and Federal Governments, October 2011
- Port Bonython Bulk Commodities Export Facility - Spencer Gulf Port Link - an Environmental Impact Statement has been published and public submissions are open until November 18, 2013
Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park
Waters adjacent to Port Bonython fall within the Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park's outer boundary. A sanctuary zone has been created for the protection of the Giant Australian Cuttlefish. It covers a section of inshore breeding habitat immediately to the west of the proposed Port Bonython Bulk Commodities Export Facility. An additional sanctuary zone exists at Fairway Bank, south of Port Bonython. It is located on the western side of the narrow shipping channel and may be subjected to impacts from moving Capesize vessels with limited under-keel clearance.
Special Purpose Areas are juxtaposed over sanctuary zones to allow for activity associated with significant economic development.
Shipping movements within the marine park are predicted to increase from approximately 360 per year to over 1000 by the year 2020. Figures for shipping movements do not include barge movements for transshipping activities. 32 barge movements are required to fill a single Panamax bulk carrier with iron ore. BHP Billiton also intends to transport heavy equipment by barge to a future landing faclity north of Fitzgerald Bay, in the northern reaches of the Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park.
Community action groups from Whyalla including Save Point Lowly, the Cuttlefish Coast Coalition and the Alternative Port Working Party have opposed the further industrialization of the Port Bonython and Point Lowly area in public, in formal submissions to Government and in the media. Their position is that the social, recreational and environmental values of the area must be preserved for current and future generations. They have identified alternative locations for the same facilities which would retain employment and other economic benefits for Whyalla's citizens whilst greatly reducing the extent of community and environmental sacrifice.
Transport & access
Port Bonython Road provides the only access to the Port Bonython area. It is currently a shared use public road which provides access to the Cultana Army Training Reserve, Point Lowly Lighthouse, beaches, boat ramp and numerous coastal homes and camp sites. It also provides access for divers and tourists who visit in May through September to view or swim with the Giant Australian Cuttlefish during their annual inshore breeding aggregation. A coastal road to the north exists, but it is controlled by the Federal Army and is permanently closed to the public.
Rail connecting Whyalla to Port Augusta is standard gauge. The national standard gauge system extends from Port Augusta to Darwin, Perth, Adelaide and other regional towns. A separate and isolated narrow gauge railway connects Whyalla to Iron Knob and extends to Iron Duke and other iron ore mines of the Middleback Range. It is privately operated for the exclusive use of Arrium Ltd. Railways to Whyalla were originally built for the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. A new rail link connecting Port Bonython to the Whyalla standard gauge line is a component of the Port Bonython Bulk Commodities Export Facility proposal.
Port Bonython in Film & Video
- The past and future of Port Bonython and its natural heritage is detailed in the forthcoming feature-length documentary film, Cuttlefish Country.
- The wildilfe of the Port Bonython and Point Lowly area is the subject of a short documentary video by Naturescope.
- "Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea Pipelines map - Crude Oil (petroleum) pipelines - Natural Gas pipelines - Products pipelines". Countries of the World. Retrieved 2011-12-27.
- http://www.spencergulfportlink.com.au/ (accessed October 31, 2013)
- "Port Bonython to break bottleneck" InBusiness No.40 (April 2008). Retrieved 2013-11-01.
- "SA port project precedes a storm of iron ore export activity". The Age (Melbourne). 2008-07-28.
- BHP Billiton Ltd "Olympic Dam Draft Environmental Impact Statement 2009" ISBN 978-0-9806218-0-8
- "Scott Group and Stuart Petroleum in Diesel Refinery Link" Railexpress.com.au (2007-08-09). Retrieved 2013-11-17.
- Proactive Investors Australia "Senex Energy selling Port Bonython Fuels Terminal project to Mitsubishi Corporation" - accessed 2013.11.01
- Kirkman, Dr H. et al, "Upper Spencer Gulf Marine Park Regional Impact Statement" SA Government, Dept. of Environment, Water & Natural Resources (accessed 2013-11-02)
- "APWP still fighting" Whyalla News (2013-11-05). Retrieved 2013-11-05.
- Balloon loop
- Cuttlefish Country website Retrieved 2013-11-01.
- Monceaux, D. "Cuttlefish & wildlife of Point Lowly Peninsula face industrial impacts to their environment" Naturescope (2012)
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