Carbon capture and storage in Australia

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Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an approach 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 for Enhanced Oil Recovery to increase yield from declining oil fields, and for storage of CO2 from natural gas fields.

No coal-fired power station in Australia has CCS of CO2. CCS is proven technology but is not yet commercially viable for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power stations. Without an economic driver such as a high carbon price or revenue from Enhanced Oil Recovery CCS is not expected to be commercially viable until at least 2020. 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.[1] In the 2015 budget, 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.[2]


  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 [3]
  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 [4]
  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 [5]

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 is 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.[6]


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.[7]

Commercial projects in operation[edit]

There are no large scale commercial CCS projects within Australia. Some demonstration and proposed projects and projects under construction are listed below with brief descriptions.

Demonstration projects[edit]

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.[8] 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 is also providing $2.3 million in support.

However, in 2016 it was reported that:

When Australia repealed the carbon price the project did not advance.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] 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.

Latrobe Valley Post Combustion Capture Project[edit]

This is 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 is designed to capture up to 1000 tonnes of CO2 per annum from the power station's exhaust-gas flues. Future trials will 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.[12]

Further government projects in this area have 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.[13]

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.[14]

International Power Carbon Capture Plant, Victoria[edit]

A post-combustion capture plant is operating at the International Power GDF Suez Hazelwood Power Station Hazelwood. The solvent capture plant began operation in 2009 and is capturing and chemically sequestering CO2 at a nominal rate of 10,000 tpa of CO2.

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.[citation needed]

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.[15]

Fairview project[edit]

The Fairview Project, near Roma in South West Queensland, is intended to capture 1/3 of the CO2 emissions from a 100 MW coal seam methane gas-fired power station.

Callide Oxyfuel Project, Queensland[edit]

The Callide Oxyfuel Project is intended to demonstrate carbon capture using oxyfuel combustion, combined with carbon storage. The Oxyfuel boiler is operational. The project team is assessing potential carbon storage sites to the west of the power plant. The carbon dioxide will be transported in road tankers. The project is headed by CS Energy Ltd 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, and the Commonwealth, Queensland and Japanese governments are providing financial support for the project. It is a project for the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18]

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".[19]

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.[20] 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.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [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)
  2. ^ Lenore Taylor. "Carbon capture and storage research budget slashed despite PM's coal focus". the Guardian. 
  3. ^ Refuting Fallacies about Wind power. Dr Mark Diesendorf. Accessed 27 May 2008.
  4. ^ Layout 1
  5. ^ Barry, Patrick (2008-08-13). "Carbon sequestration frustration". Society for Science & the Public. Retrieved 2008-08-19. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Carbon Capture Legal Programme, University College London and Global CCS Institute. "Australian Onshore Regulation". Retrieved 2014-03-19. 
  8. ^ Global CCS Institute
  9. ^ Elizabeth Finkel & Belinda Smith, Can We Bury the Problem?, Cosmos, Feb-Mar 2016, p 54.
  10. ^ Cook, Peter, ed. (2014). Geologically Storing Carbon: Learning from the Otway Project Experience. CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 9781486302307. 
  11. ^ CO2CRC - Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies
  12. ^ Coal-generated CO2 captured in Australia – a first (Media Release)
  13. ^ 3D GEO Australia geo-technical services in carbon capture/storage
  14. ^ CO2CRC/HRL Mulgrave Capture Project
  15. ^ Plan to bury Gorgon's greenhouse gas too risky. Accessed 27 May 2008.
  16. ^ Flagship Project: Callide Oxyfuel Project. NewGenCoal. Retrieved 17 December 2008
  17. ^ Shell, Anglo to Delay A$5 Billion Clean Fuels Project Retrieved 05 Feb 2009[dead link]
  18. ^ Green Car Congress: Monash Energy Moving Forward on 60Kbpd Coal-to-Liquids with Carbon Capture and Sequestration Project
  19. ^ Wilson, Nigel (10 May 2008). "Stock Quotes". The Australian. 
  20. ^ "Zerogen Project Overview". Retrieved 2009-02-20. 
  21. ^ Daniel Hurst (19 December 2010). "Bligh denies clean coal 'bungle'". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 15 March 2011.