December 12, 2017

An Australian-first energy recovery project at the Mt Piper power station near Lithgow is technically and economically viable and could generate reliable baseload electricity supply for an additional 40,000 homes in New South Wales without having to burn more coal.

Those were the key findings from the project’s first phase, announced today by joint proponents EnergyAustralia and Re.Group. The companies said the project could now proceed to the next stage of development, including preparation of a comprehensive study of environmental impacts.

EnergyAustralia Head of Assets Julian Turecek said the assessment showed it was possible to generate around 27 megawatts (MW) of electricity by converting part of Mt Piper to run on non-recyclable materials.

“That’s enough power to meet the electricity needs of around 40,000 typical homes in New South Wales without having to burn a single additional lump of coal,” Mr Turecek said.

“It also makes good sense to broaden Mt Piper’s fuel supply, supporting the plant’s long-term operation. And not only could our energy recovery project mean more local jobs, it would increase the state’s supplies of reliable power.

“We think it’s a great example of the thinking and innovation that will come to underpin a new, modern energy system in Australia,” he said.

The first phase assessment found an energy recovery project at Mt Piper would require an investment of around $160 million, primarily in a new boiler and construction of a loading dock to handle around 200,000 tonnes of non-recyclable materials a year.

The development would create around 300 direct and indirect local jobs during construction, and some 16 ongoing roles during operation.

Re.Group Managing Director David Singh, said over 6 million tonnes of waste is sent to landfill in NSW each year. 

“This project will allow us to select and process some of this non-recyclable material into fuel, so that it is no longer a waste, but a safe and useful resource for the community,” said Mr Singh.

“The project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of more than 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, and reduce the need to develop new landfills. The process of converting non-recyclable waste into a fuel to support energy production is done around the world, using proven and safe technology.”

Mr Turecek said while the project was viable and would provide environmental benefits, there was much more work to be done before the partners could make a final decision. He said community support was vital for the project to proceed.

“The first phase showed an energy recovery project at Mt Piper can work. Now we’ll focus on investigating potential impacts such as transportation of the materials, plant emissions, and disposal of the residual ash,” Mr Turecek said.

“Preserving air quality, flora and fauna and quality of life are important to the community and we simply must get these things right. There’ll be ongoing consultation throughout development, because we want to identify all the potential impacts, so that they can be mitigated or avoided altogether,” he said.

Environmental consultancy ERM has been hired to do a full environmental impact assessment over the next 12 months. Meanwhile, EnergyAustralia and Re.Group will complete detailed engineering works and technology selection and progress relevant planning and environmental approvals.

A final decision on the project is scheduled for 2019. If it proceeds, energy recovery at Mt Piper could make its first power in 2021.