Carbon capture and storage in Australia

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Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an approach to try to mitigate global warming by capturing carbon dioxide CO2 from large point sources such as fossil fuel power plants and storing it instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. Carbon capture and storage is also used to sequester CO2 filtered out of natural gas from certain from natural gas fields. While typically the CO2 has no value after being stored, Enhanced Oil Recovery uses CO2 to increase yield from declining oil fields.

There are no currently-operating large-scale CCS projects in Australia, although the Gorgon gas project will qualify when it is fully operational. Despite multiple CCS demonstration projects at Australian coal-fired power stations, none of Australia's coal plants are currently capturing CO2 or have a time frame for doing so. Australian Treasury modelling finds that CCS is not expected to be commercially viable until the 2030s.[1] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the economic potential of CCS could be between 10% and 55% of the total carbon mitigation effort until 2100.[2]

In the 2017 budget, the Turnbull Government announced the cessation of the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund in the 2017 financial year and the cessation of business case funding for the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships program in financial year 2019.[3] This is on top of the 2015 budget, where the Abbott Government cut $460m from CCS research projects leaving $191.7m to continue existing projects for the next seven years. The program had already been cut by the previous Labor government and much of the funding remained unallocated.[4]


  1. Fossil fuels are capable of dispatching electricity whenever there is demand.
  2. Australia has significant deposits of coal allowing economic benefits for years to come without significant environmental impacts.
  3. CCS can be used to capture CO2 from high-emission industrial processes such as the making of certain chemicals, steel and cement.
  4. CCS, when it comes on line, is likely to make the greatest impact in reducing greenhouse gas emissions during the transition to sustainable energy supplies.


  1. Cost of CCS will make coal-fired electricity more expensive than wind power [5]
  2. Leakage from underground or undersea reservoirs
  3. Scarcity of potential sites and capacity compared to volumes of greenhouse gas needed to be sequestered on an ongoing basis
  4. Existing power stations unlikely to be able to have carbon capture technology retrofitted [6]
  5. CCS currently requires up to 30% more coal than conventional plants to cover the energy needs of CCS (although R&D is rapidly improving efficiencies), and that extra coal must first be mined (which has environmental effects) and transported to the plant (which takes energy)
  6. Infrastructure required would take years to build
  7. emissions of acid rain-causing gases like nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides of a plant that captures CO2 will be up to 40 percent greater than the total cradle-to-grave emissions of a modern plant that doesn't capture its CO2 because of the extra coal burnt [7]

Transport of CO2[edit]

In Australia, the major emissions sites are in the Latrobe and Hunter Valleys. The Latrobe Valley has considerable potential storage within a few hundred kilometres in Bass Strait which the CarbonNet Project was investigating (see below). There are no particularly promising large storage prospects near the Hunter Valley. Geologically prospective areas include the North West Shelf (see the Gorgon Project below) and Bass Strait. Australia has very extensive basins with deep saline formations, both onshore and particularly offshore, in which large quantities of carbon dioxide can dissolve. In such formations Australia has a potential carbon dioxide storage resource equivalent to many hundreds of years of emissions at the current rate. Work is now underway to fully assess storage potential.[8]

Government involvement[edit]

In November 2008, the Australian Commonwealth Government passed the Offshore Petroleum Amendment (Greenhouse Gas Storage) Act 2008, which provides a regulatory framework for carbon dioxide storage in federal offshore waters.

The Victorian Greenhouse Gas Geological Sequestration Act 2008 (No. 61 of 2008) received Royal Assent on 5 November 2008. It provides a dedicated legal framework enabling the onshore injection and permanent storage of greenhouse gas substances. The state government has also developed a regulatory framework for offshore storage sites (i.e. those sites falling within the 3 nautical mile extent of state jurisdiction; the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2010.[9]

Both Australia's state and federal governments have been major contributors to CCS research and development. Federal government CCS initiatives include the CO2CRC (founded 2003), the Low Emission Technology Demonstration Fund (2004-2017), funding for the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (2006-2011, renewables, CCS and other), National Low Emissions Coal Initiative (founded 2008), Global CCS Institute (founded 2009), Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships (2009-2019), the Carbon Capture and Storage Research Development and Demonstration Fund (2015-2016) and the National CO2 Infrastructure Plan operated by Geoscience Australia (2012-2016).[10]

Federal funding commitments to these initiatives total $3.5-3.6 billion, of which $1.3-$1.6 billion has been committed or is expected to be committed.[11]

In February 2017, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said:[12]

We've invested $590 million since 2009 in clean coal technology research and demonstration and yet we do not have one modern high-efficiency low-emissions coal-fired power station, let alone one with carbon capture and storage.

In April 2018, a parliamentary inquiry heard from energy researchers that carbon capture and storage requires a price on carbon to be viable.[13]

Commercial projects in operation[edit]

There are no large-scale commercial CCS projects within Australia. The Global CCS Institute defines "large-scale" as 400,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum, or 800,000 tonnes per annum for a coal plant.[14] It previously used a one million tonnes per annum threshold.[15]

Demonstration and proposed projects and projects under construction are listed below with brief descriptions.

Demonstration projects[edit]

CO2CRC Otway Project[edit]

The CO2CRC Otway Project in Western Victoria is a demonstration project which has injected and stored over 65,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in a depleted natural gas reservoir 2 km below the Earth’s surface. The project was first proposed to the Board of the then Australian Petroleum Cooperative Research Centre (APCRC) in March 1998.[16] There has been no sign of leakage according to a comprehensive monitoring and verification program. A mixture of Carbon dioxide and methane gas is extracted from a well in the Bathurst field, then compressed and transported via dedicated pipeline to the Naylor field two kilometres away. The gases are then injected into the depleted gas reservoir through a dedicated injection well. A nearby well (previously used to produce natural gas) is used to monitor the injected carbon dioxide. A second stage of the project, involving evaluation of carbon dioxide storage in deep saline formations, has been highly successful and provided data on estimating CO2 storage capacity using an innovative single well test. The project is Australia's first demonstration of geosequestration and one of the world's largest geosequestration research projects.[17] This area has active exploration for geothermal and petroleum resources and has been supported by geotechnical work completed by the public sector and the private sector.

Post combustion capture projects in the Latrobe Valley[edit]

The Latrobe Valley Post Combustion Capture Project was a joint collaboration between Loy Yang Power, International Power Hazelwood, government and researchers from CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship and CO2CRC (including Monash and Melbourne Universities), involving research at both Loy Yang and Hazelwood power stations. The 10.5-metre-high pilot plant at Loy Yang was designed to capture up to 1,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum from the power station's exhaust-gas flues. Future trials were expected to involve the use of a range of different CO2-capture liquids. On 9 July 2008, CSIRO Energy Technology Chief Dr David Brockway announced that carbon dioxide (CO2) had been captured from power station flue gases in a post-combustion-capture (PCC) pilot plant at Loy Yang Power Station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. The purpose of the pilot plant is to conduct research, not to capture all the emissions from the power station.[18]

Further government projects in this area led to many geo-technical studies that review gas and liquid migration, trapping and leakage. While the Gippsland area has been described as a basin margin, this is somewhat vague. The area defines a major fold belt onshore and offshore. The key risk to injection of CO2 in the area is the ability to keep gas in the ground. Multiple regional and local studies over the area have been completed by government and private companies.[19]

In 2016, the PICA Post-Combustion Project was announced. This is a joint collaboration between CSIRO, IHI Corporation (Japanese technology provider) and AGL. It will use a pilot plant to test CO2-capture liquids over a two-year period.[20]

The CO2CRC/HRL Mulgrave Capture Project[edit]

CO2CRC commissioned three carbon dioxide capture research rigs at HRL’s gasifier research facility at Mulgrave in Melbourne, Victoria. The CO2CRC rigs captured carbon dioxide from syngas, the product of the brown coal gasifier, using solvent, membrane and adsorbent technologies. The capture technologies are equally applicable to syngas from brown and black coal, gas or biomass fuels. During the project, researchers evaluated each technology for efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Advanced gasifier technologies are highly suitable for carbon dioxide capture for CCS as they produce a concentrated stream of carbon dioxide.[21]

Proposed projects[edit]

Gorgon gas field, Barrow Island[edit]

This project led by Chevron will be designed to capture 3.5 Mt of carbon dioxide per annum from Greater Gorgon gas fields and store it in the Dupuy formation beneath the Barrow Island. The project will be the largest carbon dioxide sequestration operation in the world.[22] Chevron is liable for leaks and other damage during the project's lifetime and for 15 years afterwards,[23] but in 2009 the state and federal governments agreed to indemnify Chevron against liability for the project after that time,[24] with the Commonwealth in 2015 confirming it would adopt 80% of the liability and WA the remaining 20%.[25]

When construction on the project began in 2009, it was expected to be completed by 2014[26] - including carbon capture and storage.[27] The project ultimately started extracting gas in February 2017 but carbon capture and storage is now not expected to begin until March 2019,[28] requiring a further five million tonnes of CO2 to be released, because:

A Chevron report to the State Government released yesterday said start-up checks this year found leaking valves, valves that could corrode and excess water in the pipeline from the LNG plant to the injection wells that could cause the pipeline to corrode.[29]

In May 2018, the WA Environmental Protection Authority announced an investigation into whether Gorgon could meet its storage commitments given the delays.[30]

WWF claims that the Gorgon geosequestration project is potentially unsafe as the area has over 700 wells drilled in the area, 50 of which reach the area proposed for geosequestration of CO2. Fault lines compound the problems. Barrow Island is also an A class nature reserve of global importance.[31]

Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain project[edit]

In April 2018, the federal and Victorian governments announced a brown coal-to-hydrogen project that would operate out of AGL Energy's Loy Yang A power station. Construction is expected to begin in 2019, and hydrogen production by 2020 or 2021.[32]

The pilot program will not include carbon capture and storage,[33] but it is expected if the project is expanded, with proponent Kawasaki Heavy Industries says that coal-to-hydrogen technology is not commercial without it.[34]

The CarbonNet Project[edit]

CarbonNet was established by the Victorian Government in 2009 to investigate the potential for establishing a world class, large-scale, multi-user carbon capture and storage network in Victoria.[35] In 2012 the Australian Government selected CarbonNet as one of only two CCS flagship projects under its Clean Energy Initiative and, with the State of Victoria, awarded the project a further $100 million in joint funding to undertake feasibility. The Global CCS Institute provided $2.3 million in support.

In 2016 it was reported that "When Australia repealed the carbon price the project did not advance",[36] but as of January 2018 the project was conducting a 17-day seismic survey of former oil wells in the Gippsland Basin.[37]

Completed projects[edit]

Callide Oxyfuel Project, Queensland[edit]

The Callide Oxyfuel Project demonstrated carbon capture using oxyfuel combustion, but did not achieve carbon storage. The Oxyfuel boiler operated for two years and nine months, beyond the project's expected duration, and achieved "partial capture" of 75 tonnes of CO2 per day (27,300 tonnes per annum). The project team assessed eight potential carbon storage sites but were unsuitable because of location, availability and geological profile.[38]

The project was headed by CS Energy Ltd (which operates the Callide power plants) in conjunction with an international team of partners, including IHI Corporation (Japan), J-Power (Japan), Mitsui & Company (Japan) Schlumberger Oilfields Australia and Xstrata Coal. The Australian Coal Association (through the industry fund Coal21), and the Commonwealth (through the Low Emission Technology Demonstration Fund, Queensland and Japanese governments provided financial support for the project, which was expected to cost A$208 million.[39] It was a project for the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.[40]

In 2017, chief executive officer of project proponent CS Energy said of the Callide project:[41]

We proved that technologically it’s possible to retrofit [CCS] to existing coal-fired plants, but commercially, the numbers don’t stack up … It’s unlikely there will be [a commercial operation for CCS in Australia], I think that technology may well be bypassed … simply because of the economics. … If you could decarbonise coal by capturing and sequestering the emissions, then you’d have clean coal. It sounds easy if you say it fast enough, but it’s not that simple.

International Power Carbon Capture Plant, Victoria (Hazelwood 2030)[edit]

A post-combustion capture plant operated at the International Power GDF Suez Hazelwood Power Station Hazelwood.

When announced in 2007, the project was originally planned as a retro-fit of one of Hazelwood's eight generating units, which would have reduced its emissions intensity by 20% (500,000 tonnes per annum). It was offered a $50 million federal government grant from the Low Emissions Technology Development Fund and a $30 million Victorian government grant from the Energy Technology Innovation Strategy.[42]

A pilot program with a more modest capture objective was completed. The solvent capture plant cost $10 million (including grants from state and federal governments) and began operation in 2009, capturing and chemically sequestered CO2 at a nominal rate of 10,000 tonnes per annum.[43]

Hazelwood Power Station closed in March 2017.

Delayed projects[edit]

Monash coal-to-liquids[edit]

On 2 December 2008 Shell and Anglo American announced that this possible brown coal project in the Latrobe Valley will not proceed at present. They have described it as a "long term" opportunity.[44]

The planned project was planned to have some CCS, storing the gas captured in depleted off-shore oil fields in the Gippsland Basin in east Bass Strait.[45]

Cancelled projects[edit]

BP Kwinana (WA) coal to gas plant[edit]

A proposed $2 billion "hydrogen energy" coal-to-gas plant will not proceed because the geological formations off Perth, which were intended to sequester the CO2, contain gas "chimneys" that "mean it is next to impossible to establish a seal in the strata that could contain the CO2".[46]

Zerogen power station[edit]

The Zerogen powerstation project near Stanwell power station in Queensland is proposed to be a 100 MW "Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle" power station with CCS.[47] In late 2010, the Government of Queensland announced it would not fund the Zerogen project because it was not economically viable and that it would be sold off.[48]

Fairview project[edit]

The Fairview Project, near Roma in South West Queensland, was intended to capture 1/3 of the CO2 emissions from a 100 MW coal seam methane gas-fired power station. In 2006 it was selected to receive federal government funding,[49] but as of September 2017 it does not appear on the Global CCS Institute's list of projects.[50]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rintoul, Stuart; Hepworth, Annabel (14 July 2011). "Treasury backs carbon capture". The Australian. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  2. ^ [IPCC, 2005] IPCC special report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage. Prepared by working group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Metz, B., O.Davidson, H. C. de Coninck, M. Loos, and L.A. Meyer (eds.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 442 pp. Available in full at (PDF - 22.8MB)
  3. ^ "Budget 2017-18 Budget Paper No. 1, Statement 6: Expenses and Net Capital Investment". Australian Government. pp. 6–33. Retrieved 5 September 2017. This reflects a number of terminating measures, including the cessation of the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund and Coal Mining Abatement Technology Support Package in 2016-17, and the cessation of funding for the development of a detailed business case for the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility and Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships programs in 2018-19.
  4. ^ Lenore Taylor. "Carbon capture and storage research budget slashed despite PM's coal focus". the Guardian.
  5. ^ Refuting Fallacies about Wind power. Dr Mark Diesendorf. Accessed 27 May 2008.
  6. ^ Layout 1
  7. ^ Barry, Patrick (2008-08-13). "Carbon sequestration frustration". Society for Science & the Public. Retrieved 2008-08-19.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-29. Retrieved 2013-02-20.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ Carbon Capture Legal Programme, University College London and Global CCS Institute. "Australian Onshore Regulation". Archived from the original on 2014-03-19. Retrieved 2014-03-19.
  10. ^ Browne, Bill; Swann, Tom. "Money for Nothing". The Australia Institute. The Australia Institute. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  11. ^ Browne, Bill; Swann, Tom. "Money for Nothing". The Australia Institute. The Australia Institute. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  12. ^ Turnbull, Malcolm. "Address at the National Press Club and Q&A". Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  13. ^ "Carbon storage not a coal lifeline: expert". SBS News. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  14. ^ "Large-scale CCS projects - definitions". Global CCS Institute. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  15. ^ "G8 objective". Global CCS Institute. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  16. ^ Cook, Peter, ed. (2014). Geologically Storing Carbon: Learning from the Otway Project Experience. CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 9781486302307.
  17. ^ CO2CRC - Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies
  18. ^ Coal-generated CO2 captured in Australia – a first (Media Release)
  19. ^ 3D GEO Australia geo-technical services in carbon capture/storage
  20. ^ Cottrell, Aaron. "PICA Post-Combustion Capture Project". CSIRO. Archived from the original on 2017-09-05. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  21. ^ "CO2CRC/HRL Mulgrave Capture Project". Archived from the original on 2009-06-20. Retrieved 2009-06-26.
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  23. ^ Kemp, John (2013-09-10). "World's largest carbon capture begins even as Abbott tax repeal looms". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  24. ^ "WA and Commonwealth to share Gorgon load". WAtoday. 2009-08-17. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  25. ^ "Barrow Island Amendment Bill 2015: Second reading speech" (PDF).
  26. ^ "The day disaster struck Gorgon". The West Australian. 2017-04-10. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  27. ^ Kemp, John (2013-09-10). "World's largest carbon capture begins even as Abbott tax repeal looms". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  28. ^ "How a gas plant could wipe out a year's worth of solar power emissions savings". ABC News. 2018-06-21. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  29. ^ Mile, Peter (2017-12-19). "Carbon hiccup for Chevron with 5 million-tonne greenhouse gas problem at Gorgon LNG plant". The West Australian. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  30. ^ "EPA to probe Gorgon's $2.5b LNG emissions storage delay". The West Australian. 2018-05-09. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  31. ^ Plan to bury Gorgon's greenhouse gas too risky Archived 2008-07-24 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 27 May 2008.
  32. ^ Slater, Michelle (2018-04-16). "Converting coal to hydrogen". Gippsland Times. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  33. ^ Latimer, Cole (2018-04-12). "Reality check on a half-billion-dollar brown coal hydrogen project". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  34. ^ "World-first coal to hydrogen plant trialled in Victoria". ABC News. 2018-04-12. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  35. ^ Global CCS Institute
  36. ^ Elizabeth Finkel & Belinda Smith, Can We Bury the Problem?, Cosmos, Feb-Mar 2016, p 54.
  37. ^ "Victorian beach closes for carbon capture and storage seismic survey". ABC News. 2018-01-18. Retrieved 2018-04-19.
  38. ^ Greig, Chris; Bongers, Geoffrey; Stott, Caroline; Byrom, Stephanie. "Overview of CCS Roadmaps and Projects" (PDF). ANLEC. p. 16. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  39. ^ "Callide-A Oxyfuel Fact Sheet: Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Project". Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies. MIT. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  40. ^ Flagship Project: Callide Oxyfuel Project. NewGenCoal. Retrieved 17 December 2008
  41. ^ Cooper, Hayden. "No more coal-fired power stations will be built in Australia, Queensland provider CS Energy says". 7:30. ABC News. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  42. ^ "Alstom to commence CO2 reduction: demonstration project in Australia, Hazelwood 2030". Archived from the original on 2018-07-03. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  43. ^ "$10m Latrobe Valley carbon capture plant opens". ABC News. 2009-07-08. Retrieved 2018-07-03.
  44. ^ Shell, Anglo to Delay A$5 Billion Clean Fuels Project Retrieved 05 Feb 2009[dead link]
  45. ^ Green Car Congress: Monash Energy Moving Forward on 60Kbpd Coal-to-Liquids with Carbon Capture and Sequestration Project
  46. ^ Wilson, Nigel (10 May 2008). "Stock Quotes". The Australian. Archived from the original on 2008-05-11. Retrieved 2008-05-25.
  47. ^ "Zerogen Project Overview". Retrieved 2009-02-20.
  48. ^ Daniel Hurst (19 December 2010). "Bligh denies clean coal 'bungle'". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  49. ^ "Media analysis". Global CCS Institute. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  50. ^ "Projects Database". Global CCS Institute.