Definitions

Hazelwood power plant

Hazelwood Power Station, Victoria

Hazelwood Power Station, in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, is a brown coal fueled base-load power station built between 1964 and 1971. The power station is of 1,600 megawatt (1,470 net) capacity, and supplies up to 25% of Victoria's base load electricity. Scheduled to be decommissioned by 2009 due to its excessive carbon dioxide emissions, a decision by the Victorian Government in 2005 allowed the power station to remain operational until 2031.

History

Development of the brown coal reserves at Morwell were started by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) in 1949 as the 'Morwell Project', which included the Morwell open cut mine, and the Morwell briquette works. The Morwell Interconnecting Railway linked the power station and briquette works to the Yallourn open cut mine until 1993.

Hazelwood Power Station was approved in 1959, and was to consist of six 200 MW generating units, giving a total of 1,200 MW of generating capacity. The first unit was to enter service in 1964, and the sixth in 1971. Growing electricity demand saw a review carried out by the SECV in 1963, with commissioning of the generating units moved forward to 1969. Additional capacity was provided when in 1965 two additional generating units at Hazelwood were approved, to be commissioned in 1970 and 1971 respectively.

Privatisation

Hazelwood Power Station and associated mine were privatised by the Kennett government in 1996. It was sold for $2.35 billion, and it operates as 'International Power Hazelwood' (IPRH), an Australian public company, which is owned by UK company International Power (91.8% share) and the Commonwealth Bank Group (the remaining 8.2%). The head office is near Morwell, 150 kilometres east of Melbourne. Prior to January 2003, International Power Hazelwood was known as Hazelwood Power.

Privatisation resulted in new capital investment, with $400 million invested in Hazelwood since 1996, such as the completion of an $85 million project to reduce dust emissions by 80%.

Coal supply

Hazelwood relies on brown coal deposits from the nearby Morwell open cut mine. In 2003, 17.2 million tonnes of coal was excavated by International Power Hazelwood for use by the plant which generated 12,000 gigawatt-hours. The company supplied a further 1.6 million tonnes of coal to Energy Brix Australia.

EES Approval

Before privatisation the power station was due to be decommissioned by the SECV by 2005, as had older plants at Newport and Yallourn. However Hazelwood had its mining licence realigned by the Victorian Government along with EES approvals to move a river and a road on 6 September, 2005. This agreement ensures security of coal supply to the plant until at least 2030 by allowing access to 43 million tonnes of brown coal deposits in a realignment of Hazelwood's mining licence boundaries that were originally set in 1996. Hazelwood returns over 160 million tonnes of coal to the State Government as part of the agreement.

The agreement requires Hazelwood to reduce its estimated emissions by 34 million tonnes and caps its total greenhouse output at 445 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over its life, after which point it may be made to cease operation. However credits for investment in renewable energy and low emission technology will allow the business to operate within the cap and extend its life.

Hazelwood's West Field development has involved completing a new 7.5km section of the Strzelecki Highway, replacing over four kilometres of the Morwell River from an old concrete pipe into a natural open channel riverine setting, and acquiring privately owned land. Many green groups, including Environment Victoria, Greenpeace and Australian Conservation Foundation opposed the development approvals, while business groups such as Minerals Council of Australia, VECCI, Aust Industy Group and Institute of Public Affairs have welcomed the Government's decision.

Criticisms and responses

The Australian Conservation Foundation have put the "expansion" in context by comparing it to Victoria's five-star energy efficient homes standard, which is expected to save 200,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases per annum. The ACF reason that Hazelwood's operations cancel out that benefit every four days. ACF Executive director Don Henry has said he would follow formal objections with legal action to prevent the grant of "new" coal to IPRH. The reality is that most of the West Field coal reserves were allocated to Hazelwood in 1996 in the privatisation process.

Environment Victoria have pushed for alternative baseload generation through: biomass energy, wave energy, geothermal energy, new combined cycle gas fired generation plants, new cogeneration facilities, or increased imports of baseload electricity from interstate. In January 2005, the Clean Energy Future Group together with Environment Victoria released the report Toward Victoria's Clean Energy Future, a plan to cut Victoria's Greenhouse gas emissions from electricity by 2010. It largely focused on cleaner alternatives to Hazelwood, and warned that continued support of coal-fired power development would lock the State into CO2 emissions that would dwarf any current proposed measures for reducing emissions.

Greenpeace has pushed for a target of 20 % clean energy for Victoria by 2020, allowing Hazelwood to be retired, and to invigorate the Latrobe Valley as a clean energy hub.

Environment

CO2 emissions

According to a WWF report, Hazelwood is the dirtiest power station in Australia and the most polluting power station in the industrialised world (based on CO2 per megawatt hour sent out). The WWF reported that the power station produced 1.58 tonnes of CO2 per megawatt-hour of electricity generated in 2004 (official result was 1.55), which was a significant reduction of 6.6% from the 1996 levels of 1.66 Mt/TWh when the plant was privatised. This CO2 per megawatt-hour reduction is now over 8% based on performance to 2007.

With a 60% increase in power generation since 1996, Hazelwood now produces up to 17.0 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, which is over 5 % of Australia's total carbon dioxide emissions, and 9 % of Australia's total CO2 from electricity generation.

Water

1.14 megalitres of water are used per gigawatt hour of power generated, or approximately 37.5 megalitres per day. Cooling water for the power station is supplied by the Hazelwood Pondage, built for this purpose in the 1960s. The pondage is supplied with water from the Moondarra Reservoir and runoff pumped from the adjacent mine.

Public access to the pondage is permitted for sailing, boating and other recreational water sports. Cichlids and other tropical fish that were released into the lake by the public have established populations, including Convict cichlids (Cryptoheros nigrofasciatus) and the African cichlid spotted tilapia (Tilapia mariae). Other fish include carp, goldfish (Carassius auratus), Gambusia (Gambusia holbrooki), and the native short-finned eel (Anguilla australis) and Australian smelt (Retropinna semoni).

Bio-Algae trial

A trial algae photobioreactor plant was established at Hazelwood in the early 2000s by Energetix, a division of the Victor Smorgon Group. The plant houses algae that feed on emissions from the smoke stacks, which are then harvested and turned into biofuels. The technology Hazelwood is using was developed at MIT and is licensed from Greenfuels. If the trial is successful up to 1000 hectares of photobioreactors could be built which will turn 5% of Hazelwood's emissions into biofuels.

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