On future operations of Mount Piper Power Station (MPPS), Energy Australia managing director Catherine Tanna said: "Now we're investing $80 million to help make sure the plant is around for another quarter century and it's as efficient as it can possibly be." (Energy Australia to invest $80 million to upgrade turbines at Mt Piper power station, Lithgow Mercury, July 8). Does MPPS have adequate long-term coal supplies to sustain operations "for another quarter century"?
Recently, MPPS has endured "significant disruptions" from its primary coal supplier, Springvale mine. This mine has struck "geological issues", where extracting coal is of lower quality and quantity than projected, to the extent that MPPS's output so far this year is reportedly down 42 per cent compared with the same period in 2018.
MPPS's reported normal coal consumption is circa 3.7 million tonnes per year (Mt/y). Springvale Coal Services Operations' feed to MPPS, for the period November 2018 to March 2019, was reportedly 1,031,114 tonnes.
My calculations indicate this period represents 151 days, with a production rate averaging 2.492 Mt/y. With MPPS needing around 3.7 Mt/y for normal capacity, but seemingly Springvale recently only supplying circa 2.5 Mtly, then it's no wonder MPPS's onsite coal stockpiles are reportedly declining and its electricity output substantially curtailed.
A current proposal (approval pending) for hauling up to 0.2 Mt/y coal via public roads from Clarence Colliery to augment supplies for MPPS, seems to me is woefully inadequate.
Another proposal (currently seeking public comments) is to modify the Lidsdale Siding rail loading facility, to receive and unload coal trains, each train containing up to 3,900 tonnes of coal, with no more than one train per day, and transfer this fuel via conveyors to MPPS. If approved, it seems to me this could (in theory) facilitate alternative coal supplies for MPPS of up to 1.424 Mt/y.
But Springvale's coal reserves may be exhausted as soon as 2024 (less than 5 and a half years away), and its development consent will expire at the end of 2028. Then where would adequate coal supplies come from for MPPS?
Angus Place Colliery (with permitted run-of-mine extraction up to 4 Mt/y) has been 'mothballed' since March 2015, and its development consent expires in August 2024.8 Clarence Colliery's (3 Mt/y) development consent expires at the end of 2026, and Airly mine (1.8 Mt/y) is finished by about 2035.
Invincible open-cut has consent 2 Mt/y, approved in February 2018, until 31 December 2025), but it's not producing and what about MPPS's ongoing greenhouse gas emissions?
Broadcast July 8, on ABC's The Business, was an interview with lan Dunlop, who said: "...the reality is that unless we start to recognise that climate change is the single biggest threat the world faces, and if we don't address it, we actually are not going to have a viable economy, or a viable society."
I interpret Energy Australia's recent announcements to be in total denial of the existential threat of dangerous climate change and ignores the escalating risks that MPPS will likely become a "stranded asset" long before another quarter century.