Energy in Queensland

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Energy resources and major export ports in Australia

Queensland's energy policy is based on the year 2000 document called the Queensland Energy Policy: A Cleaner Energy Strategy.[1] The Queensland Government assists energy development through the Department of Energy and Water Supply. The state is noted for its significant contribution to coal mining in Australia. The primary fuel for electricity generation in the state is coal with coal seam gas becoming a significant fuel source. Queensland has 98% of Australia's reserves of coal seam gas. An expansion of energy-intensive industries such as mining, economic growth and population growth have created increased demand for energy in Queensland.[2]

Early energy development in the middle of the 20th century facilitated the extraction of fossil fuels and distribution of natural gas and oil in pipelines from the south west of the state, under the leadership of Joh Bjelke-Petersen.[citation needed] In 2006, Queensland became the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in Australia due to its reliance on coal power and road transport.[3] A 2005 government report highlighted the state's vulnerability to rising oil prices.

Queensland was the state to first to produce commercial oil, the first to find natural gas and the first to supply a capital city with natural gas by pipeline. It has Australia's largest onshore oil field, the Jackson oil field. It was also the first state to use a form of hydro-electric power at Thargomindah when water pressure from a well sunk into the Great Artesian Basin was harnessed to generate electric power.

Electricity market[edit]

Year Maximum
capacity (MW)
1972 2,031
1975 2,073
1977 2,345
1979 3,077
1982 3,591
1983 3,614
1987 5,126
1988 4,911
2010 10,000
2014 14,455
Source: Official Year Book of Australia[4]
and Business and industry portal[5]

The state has a current generating capacity of over 14,000 MW.[5] The highest peak demand for electricity in Queensland for which data is currently available was 8,891 MW and occurred on 18 January 2010.[6] Queensland's resources sector creates a strong demand for electricity at mines, smelters and refineries, which are often located in regional Queensland.[7] Two interconnectors between Queensland and New South Wales allow the state to export power south.[2] The first was the Terranora interconnector, commissioned in 2000. The second to be commissioned was the Queensland – New South Wales Interconnector (QNI) in early 2001.[8] The QNI initially had a capacity of 300 MW. With improvements to the electricity systems at either end, the capacity has more than doubled, and currently Queensland can export up to 1380 MW of electricity, or import up to 880 MW.[8] More than 75% of the additional generating capacity built since the creation of the National Electricity Market (NEM) is in Queensland, explaining the relatively large difference between the state's generating capacity and demand.

In April 1985, the SEQEB dispute saw electricity workers walk off the job over stalled wage negotiations. Brisbane and South East Queensland experienced rolling blackouts and 1,000 union members lost their jobs. The electricity generation sector was deregulated in 2007 by former Premier Peter Beattie. In the same year, the Queensland Government banned the development of nuclear power facilities in Queensland.[9]

Because there are fewer people in remote and regional Queensland electricity is subsidised by a Community Service Obligation payment made to distributors such as Energex and Ergon.[10] The Queensland Competition Authority, acting under the Electricity Act 1994, calculates the Benchmark Retail Cost Index which is used to adjust electricity prices on an annual basis.[11]


In the 2007–08 financial year, 88% of Queensland's electricity generation was fuelled by black coal, 10% from gas and 2% from renewable sources.[7] The energy policy of Queensland stipulates that the government will not issue further generating licences for new coal fired power stations unless world's best practice low emission technology is used and can facilitate carbon capture and storage technology in the future.[7] Access to numerous coal mines, including 10 mines in the major coal-producing region of the Bowen Basin,[12] provided an abundant fuel source which historically was cheaper to produce when compared to renewable sources, as the social, health and climatic costs of burning coal were not accounted for. The IPCC has identified that coal cannot be used for power generation beyond 2050, if warming is to be kept below 1.5C.


An oil well near Eromanga, 2009

By international standards Queensland has no significant oil reserves.[13] The first commercial production of oil in Australia began at Moonie in 1962.[14] Further oil deposits were discovered in South West Queensland in the 1980s.[15] Australia's largest onshore oil field is the Jackson oil field.[16] An oil pipeline runs from Jackson to Brisbane. In 2003, the pipeline burst open at Lytton causing Queensland's largest-ever oil spill.[17] Queensland has most of Australia's 30 billion barrels of known oil shale resources.[15] In 2008, a 20-year moratorium on oil shale mining was enacted because of environmental concerns.[18] The ban was lifted in early 2013, allowing commercial production to begin at a Queensland Energy Resources plant at Gladstone.[18]

Caltex Australia owns the largest fuels refinery in Queensland, Lytton Refinery, which is located at Lytton. It began operations in 1965 and produces a range of petroleum products which meets more than half of the state's fuel needs.[19] A second fuel refinery is located nearby at Bulwer Island and is owned by BP. Closed in 2015 and converted to a jet terminal [wiki]

The Queensland Oil Vulnerability Taskforce was established by Peter Beattie in May 2005. The taskforce was led by the Member for Hervey Bay, Andrew McNamara, aiming to investigate supply constraints, rising prices and the impact of peak oil on Queenslanders.[20] The taskforce produced the McNamara Report which concluded that the state was highly vulnerable to rising oil prices and that alternative energy sources could not be easily substituted. The key recommendation was for the Queensland Government to develop a mitigation strategy and action plan.[20]


Coal Gas[edit]

Coal gas (derived from coal) was produced at Petries Bight on the Brisbane River from 1864.

Natural Gas[edit]

The first natural gas find in Australia was at Roma in 1900 as a team was drilling a water well.[14] The first gas pipeline in Australia was 435 km in length and was opened on 17 March 1969 by Bjelke-Petersen.[21] It connected the Roma gasfields to Brisbane for commercial and domestic use, a first for a capital city in Australia. The pipeline was extended by 756 km in 1996 to connect with gasfields at Ballera.[21] Another pipeline, which was completed in April 1998, travels north from Ballera to Mount Isa.[15]

Natural gas is extracted from both the Cooper Basin and Eromanga Basins.[13] Natural gas is delivered directly to homes in the cities of Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Maryborough, Hervey Bay, Bundaberg, Gladstone and Rockhampton.[22]

At some coal mines waste mine gas is collected and used to generate small amounts of power. At Moronbah North coal mine a 45 MW power station generates base load power and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.[23] Oaky Creek coal mines collect enough mine gas to generate 20 MW of power.[24]

Coal seam gas[edit]

Year Coal seam gas
production (PJ)
1994–95 0
1998–99 2
2002–03 27
2005–06 63
2009–10 212
2010–11 234
2011–12 254
Source: Queensland coal
seam gas overview[25]

Commercial production of coal seam gas first occurred in Australia in December 1996 at the Dawson Valley project, near the Moura coal mine.[26] Most of the gas produced in Queensland now comes from coal seams.[13] According to 2005 figures, Queensland has 98% of Australia's proven and probable reserves of coal seam gas.[26] In the 2009/10 financial year investment in the coal seam gas industry increased 43% compared to the previous financial year.[27]

In 2010, it was announced that the Curtis LNG Project at Gladstone would process coal-seam gas transported via a 540 km underground pipe from the Surat Basin into liquified natural gas for export.[28] Coal seam gas in the Surat Basin is 98% methane making it relatively pure and requiring little treatment before use.[29] On 21 April 2011, the largest sales and purchase agreement in Australia by annual volume of LNG was signed in Brisbane. The binding agreement between Origin Energy (with joint venture partner ConocoPhillips) and Sinopec will see 4.3 million tonnes of LNG exported to China via Gladstone from 2015 for the next 20 years.[30]

The impact of coal seam gas exploration and production has raised numerous environmental concerns. In a 2011 audit of coal seam gas wells it was found that 34 wells out of 2,719 or 2% had detectable leaks.[31] Five wells had leaks that were at a flammable level.[31]


Renewable energy policy is defined under the Queensland Renewable Energy Plan which falls under the auspices of the Office of Clean Energy.[32] Queensland has signed up to the Renewable Energy Target Scheme which aims to produce 20% of Australia's energy from renewables by 2020.[33]

The current energy policy of Queensland will not set targets above the national mandates for renewable energy because of its significant economic impact. Despite having a clear statutory definition of renewable energy and an ample supply of sunlight,[34] renewable energy development in Queensland lags behind other Australian states,

All of Queensland's 21 sugar mills generate seasonal power from the burning of bagasse.[15] Excess power not used by the mill is returned to the grid. The mill at Rocky Point on the Gold Coast substitutes other green waste when sugar cane waste is not available.[35] In Brisbane, there is a waste-to-energy facility at the Rochedale dump and a second is planned for the Willawong landfill.[36]


In remote South West Queensland there are large geothermal resources which remain mostly untapped.[37] Near-boiling water is taken from the Great Artesian Basin to power a small geothermal power plant at Birdsville.[38] Here the Cooper Basin and Eromanga Basins contain some of the world's hottest fractured granite which is also close to an adequate water supply for a power station.[39]

In August 2010, the Queensland Parliament passed the Geothermal Energy Act 2010, which supersedes the Geothermal Exploration Act 2004.[40] The new law incorporates production requirements and includes changes to land access policy.

October 2010 saw the announcement of the Coastal Geothermal Energy Initiative by the Queensland Minister for Mines and Energy, Stephen Robertson. The aim of the initiative was to identify geothermal resources which are close to the coast with its existing electricity transmission lines and major population centres.[41] Potential was identified in four geological basins; Tarong Basin, the Maryborough Basin South, the Duaringa Basin North and the Hillsborough Basin.[42]

In April 2011, the Queensland Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence (QGECE)[43] was opened at the University of Queensland. The Centre will undertake research and development in large-scale electricity generation from geothermal energy.


Windy Hill Wind Farm on the Atherton Tableland has 20 wind turbines, 2011

Queensland has been slow to adopt wind power compared to other states and territories in Australia.[44] Windy Hill Wind Farm is the only wind powered power station currently operating in Queensland. There is a small facility with two turbines on Thursday Island and another single turbine on North Keppel Island.[45]


Queensland has some hydro electricity facilities in North Queensland and South East Queensland. The largest is Wivenhoe Hydroelectric Power Station which can produce a maximum of 500 MW when required.[46] The use of bore water at Thargomindah from 1893 has been described as Australia's first hydro-electricity scheme.[47] It was operational until 1951.


The Solar Bonus Scheme ran from 2008[48] to 2013, and rooftop solar is now in 27% of detached homes in south-east Queensland totalling more than 937MW of solar panels.[49] Over 1/3 of owners now receive 6.4 cents per kilowatt hour for surplus power fed back to the grid, and the remaining still receive the scheme's 44c/kWh.[50] The Office of Clean Energy provides a Solar Hot Water Rebate for Queenslanders purchasing and installing a solar hot water system or heat pump.[51]

The installation of rooftop solar systems in Queensland is being hampered by deficiencies in the electricity grid. This is because the grid was designed to deliver power from the station to the home and not vice versa.[48]


A state government policy of diversification of fuel sources has led to initiatives like the 13% Gas Scheme. The mandatory target for Queensland electricity retailers has subsequently been raised to 15% for 2011 and 18% by 2020.[52] Eligible fuels include natural gas, coal seam gas, liquefied petroleum gas and waste gases. These efforts and the 2006 halt to land clearing in Queensland, form part of the state's strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Office of Clean Energy was established in 2008 to assist companies in developing clean energy projects for the state.[53] It also administers the Solar Bonus Scheme whereby households and other small customers are paid for surplus electricity which is returned to the electricity grid.

The Queensland Government started the Solar Schools program with the aim of reducing schools energy consumption by 30%.[54] The initiative, which began in 2008, involves installing a minimum of two KW solar panels at every Queensland state school. Creche and kindergarten services were also provided funding for the installation of the solar power systems.[55]

The Western Corridor Recycled Water Project in the state's south east, has been built to ensure water supply to power stations is maintained during drought in Australia. The Queensland Government has made its own energy efficiency improvements under the Government Energy Management Strategy.

In May 2011, the Queensland Government announced the Queensland Energy Management Plan. The aim of the plan is to reduce peak demand and offset the need to commission a new major power station.[56] It includes 28 initiatives ranging from mandatory off-peak tariffs for hot water systems, improved access to off-peak power for pool owners operating pool filters and a trial of managing energy use in vending machines. The plan also includes the establishment of an Energy Management Centre to provide advice on energy efficiency and a special tariff for energy-hungry appliances, such as air conditioners, which can be switched off by electricity distributors at peak times.[56] If the plan were to be fully adopted it could save A$3.5 billion in future infrastructure costs.[57]


Completed reference projects in energy[edit]

Key energy projects in progress[edit]

The five reflective dishes of the Windorah Solar Farm, 2011

In 2011, it was announced that the Kogan Creek Solar Boost would go ahead at Brigalow adjacent to Kogan Creek Power Station. The project which uses superheated solar steam technology will be the largest integration of solar technology with a coal-fired power station in the world[58] and the largest solar project in the Southern Hemisphere.[59]

The Windorah Solar Farm is Ergon Energy's first solar farm trial near the town of Windorah. The A$4.5 million project provides a maximum of 180 KW for the town of about 100 people.

Failed energy projects[edit]

The Stuart Oil Shale Project near Gladstone was Australia's first major attempt since the 1950s to restart commercial use of oil shale. The project completed a trial phase but was suspended during the environmental impact assessment of the next stage.[60]

The Zerogen power station project located near Stanwell Power Station was planned to be a leading proponent of carbon capture and storage in Australia. Funding for the project was cancelled in 2010 because it was not economically viable.[61] The project included a detailed investigation into the viability of Carbon capture and storage.

A plan to build a 3,200 km long, A$5.5 billion gas pipeline from Papua New Guinea was abandoned by Exxon in early 2007.[62] By then importing gas into Australia had become uneconomic. An underground coal gasification plant owned by Cougar Energy was closed down in July 2011 after the Department of Environment and Resource Management determined it posed a significant risk to underground water in the agricultural region of the South Burnett.[63] The underground plant was one of three trial projects underway in Queensland.

The CopperString transmission line was a proposed project that was to link Mount Isa to Townsville and the National Electricity Market. The power lines were expected to cost A$1.5 billion to develop and would have a total length of 1,028 km.[64] The CopperString project was cancelled after Xstrata decided to source their electricity from a small gas fired power plant in Mt Isa.[65]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Queensland Energy Policy: A Cleaner Energy Strategy Archived 28 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine. May 2000.
  2. ^ a b Roger Church. "Energy Use" (PDF). State of the Environment Queensland 2007. Department of Environment and Resource Management. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 April 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  3. ^ Kerrie Sinclair (24 June 2008). "Queensland largest greenhouse gas emitter in country". The Courier-Mail. News Queensland. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  4. ^ Official Year Books of Australia. Australian Bureau of Statistics. For the state of Queensland as of 30 June for years indicated.
  5. ^ a b Electricity generation. Business and industry portal. The State of Queensland. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  6. ^ "Electricity in Queensland". Department of Mines and Energy. 29 September 2010. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  7. ^ a b c "Department of Mines and Energy: Generation". Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. 19 July 2010. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  8. ^ a b "Potential increase in interstate electricity trade good news for electricity consumers". TransGrid. 20 October 2011. Archived from the original on 21 March 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  9. ^ "Smart Energy Policy". Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. 31 May 2010. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 10 June 2011.
  10. ^ "We pay for what we use". Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. 10 February 2010. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  11. ^ "Notified Electricity Prices 2009–10". Queensland Competition Authority. 9 June 2009. Archived from the original on 22 February 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
  12. ^ "The Importance of Coal in the Modern World – Australia". Gladstone Centre for Clean Coal. Archived from the original on 8 February 2007. Retrieved 17 March 2007.
  13. ^ a b c "Gas in Queensland". Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. Archived from the original on 10 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  14. ^ a b The Oil and Gas Year Australia. Wildcat Publishing. 2009. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-906975-08-1.
  15. ^ a b c d Queensland: Mineral, petroleum and energy resources (Map) (9th ed.). Cartography by Graphical Services Unit, Natural Resources, Mines and Water. Government of Queensland. 2006.
  16. ^ Nigel Wilson (2 October 2007). "Innamincka's results fire share surge". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
  17. ^ Tony Moore (30 July 2007). "Leaky oil pipeline should be shifted". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  18. ^ a b Queensland Government Department of Natural Resources and Mines (3 March 2014). "Oil Shale". Department of Natural Resources and Mines. Archived from the original on 1 March 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2014.
  19. ^ "Caltex Refinery Upgrade: Project Overview". Department of Local Government and Planning. Archived from the original on 15 March 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  20. ^ a b Andrew McNamara (5 April 2007). "Australian report: Queensland's vulnerability to rising oil prices". Archived from the original on 19 March 2012. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  21. ^ a b Barry Wood and Roger Woodman (July 2005). "The Roma to Brisbane Natural Gas Pipeline – 1969". The Australian Pipeliner. Great Southern Press. Archived from the original on 2 July 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  22. ^ "Natural Gas". Queensland Homes. Graphic Publishing. Archived from the original on 3 December 2012. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
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  24. ^ "Oaky Creek Waste Coal Mine Gas Power Station". Envirogen. Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
  25. ^ Queensland coal seam gas overview Archived 21 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine. February 2011. Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.
  26. ^ a b "Coal Bed Methane Fact Sheet". Australian Mines Atlas. Commonwealth of Australia. Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  27. ^ "Queensland Coal Seam Gas Industry Booming". Oil and Gas IQ. 10 May 2010. Archived from the original on 30 January 2013. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  28. ^ Jared Owens (1 November 2010). "LNG projects to bring home the bacon, says Wayne Swan". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  29. ^ "Coal Seam Gas". Queensland Gas Company. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  30. ^ Mathew Murphy (22 April 2011). "Origin signs record $90bn gas export deal to China". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 12 May 2011.
  31. ^ a b Georgia Waters (6 June 2011). "Leaking CSG wells 'no threat': Minister". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  32. ^ "Queensland Renewable Energy Plan". Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. 6 April 2011. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  33. ^ "Renewable Energy Target". Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  34. ^ Queensland Solar Resources: Annual Average Solar Insulation[permanent dead link]. Retrieved 20 April 2007.
  35. ^ "Green waste to energy sales". Reed Business Information. 26 March 2004. Archived from the original on 14 November 2010. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  36. ^ "Brisbane fuelling up on rubbish". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. 16 May 2011. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
  37. ^ "Queensland's geothermal resources". Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. 15 October 2009. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
  38. ^ "Birdsville geothermal power station" (PDF). Queensland Sustainable Energy Innovation Fund. September 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 July 2006. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  39. ^ "The Challenge". Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence at The University of Queensland. 30 May 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
  40. ^ "Changes to Queensland's geothermal legislation" (PDF). Queensland Government Mining Journal Spring–Summer 2010. Retrieved 28 April 2011.[permanent dead link]
  41. ^ "Coastal Geothermal Energy Initiative" (PDF). Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 April 2011. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
  42. ^ "QGECE helping the Queensland Coastal Geothermal Energy Initiative". The University of Queensland. Retrieved 28 April 2011.
  43. ^ "Queensland Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence". Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  44. ^ Kathleen Donaghey (21 March 2010). "Mayors show approval for wind farms to be developed along Queensland's coast". The Sunday Mail. News Queensland. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  45. ^ "Queensland welcomes wind farms". Weekly Times. 22 March 2010. Retrieved 23 May 2011.
  46. ^ "Wivenhoe Power Station". Tarong Energy. Archived from the original on 19 March 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  47. ^ "Thargomindah". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 8 February 2004. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  48. ^ a b Peter Hall (24 September 2011). "Queensland State Government admits electricity grid failing to cope with solar power systems". The Courier Mail. News Queensland. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  49. ^ "Rooftop solar now in 27% of detached homes in S.E. Queensland". 9 March 2015.
  50. ^ "Solar Bonus Scheme". Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. 14 March 2011. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  51. ^ "Queensland Government Solar Hot Water Rebate". Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. 25 March 2011. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  52. ^ "Department of Mines and Energy: Queensland Gas Scheme". Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. 18 February 2011. Archived from the original on 22 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  53. ^ "Queensland's Clean Energy Future". Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. Archived from the original on 14 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  54. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions – Solar and Energy Efficiency Program in Queensland State Schools". Department of Education and Training. Archived from the original on 5 April 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2011.
  55. ^ "Solar Power For Queensland Kindergartens". Energy Matters. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  56. ^ a b Steven Wardill (31 May 2011). "Cut-price power plan for pool owners". The Courier-Mail. News Queensland. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  57. ^ Rosanne Barrett (1 June 2011). "Backlash as power prices set to surge". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 25 June 2011.
  58. ^ "Australia plans massive coal-solar combo". United Press International. 13 April 2011. Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  59. ^ "Huge solar power project approved for southern Queensland". ABC Rural. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 13 April 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  60. ^ "Stuart Oil Shale – Stage 2: Project Overview". Department of Local Government and Planning. Archived from the original on 18 August 2010. Retrieved 15 April 2011.
  61. ^ Daniel Hurst (19 December 2010). "Bligh denies clean coal 'bungle'". Brisbane Times. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 15 March 2011.
  62. ^ Matt Chambers (17 September 2010). "Plan has echoes of Exxon's failed gas dream". The Australian. News Limited. Retrieved 9 May 2011.
  63. ^ Stephanie Smail (8 July 2011). "Queensland quashes controversial gas project". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  64. ^ "CopperString project". Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation. Archived from the original on 2 July 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2011.
  65. ^ "Final nail in coffin of CopperString". Townsville Bulletin. Retrieved 13 April 2012.

External links[edit]