THREE energy-related projects which proponents say have the potential to create jobs and investment in Wellington Shire and Latrobe Valley are creating waves in Gippsland communities.
The organisers of a controversial carbon capture and storage project in the waters off Golden Beach are urging the community to attend information sessions next month to hear about the potential benefits of carbon capture.
The offshore Gippsland basin is believed to contain the highest quality and largest capacity geological reservoirs of 25 major basins across the country, and has the potential to store more than 30 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to a report by the National Carbon Storage Taskforce.
Another energy-related project in the same waters off Golden Beach involves the development of a natural gas facility which could lead to gas being produced for the domestic market as early as mid-2021. Proponents also claim it will create local jobs, particularly in the initial pipeline construction stages.
A third project indirectly linked to Golden Beach is a $500 million coal-to-hydrogen project that will see liquid hydrogen created from Latrobe Valley coal, sent to the Mornington Peninsula for processing, and exported to Japan. Its success is largely dependant on the development of a carbon storage facility to deal with the emissions.
But so far, not everyone is convinced of the projects’ benefits, with opponents calling for an end to Golden Beach being used as a “dumping ground”.
The 90 Mile Beach Action Group Against Carbon Storage is campaigning to end the CarbonNet project because of safety concerns about a pipeline carrying hazardous material through large tracts of Gippsland, and what it claims is a “lack of community consultation”.
The group is also opposed to the plans by private company GB Energy to develop a Golden Beach gas field three kilometres from the shoreline between Golden Beach and Glomar Beach.
Spokeswoman Karen Vogel said residents were “fed up” and sceptical either project would bring economic benefits to the immediate area.
“Whenever they start their public campaigns they start with ‘local economic benefits and jobs’, but there is little evidence that will happen,” she said.
“This is a small community with older people and young families, and we feel there is the risk that people’s homes and investments could be destroyed.
“These projects will bring drilling rigs and change the environment of this lovely area, and that’s not necessarily a benefit — we’re sick of being a dumping ground.”
Another spokeswoman, Tracey Anton, said both projects involved huge risks for little gain, citing departmental records from the 1970s stating that the gas discovery in Golden Beach “cannot be highly rated”.
Ms Anton said both projects involved drilling in the sea bed near Golden Beach, and “the bottom line is there cannot be two different operations in the same vicinity”.
CarbonNet organisers have consistently emphasised the “proven” safety record of carbon capture and storage, saying the process is similar to the way oil and gas has been stored underground for millions of years.
A CarbonNet project spokesman said the project could be a “key enabler” to economic growth, while being consistent with the government’s ‘’net zero emissions by 2050’’ target.
It will involve transporting emissions from other areas to the storage sites in Bass Strait.
The ocean floor up to 11km offshore from Golden Beach has been investigated using low level seismic sounding and sonar mapping from a ship, and this will continue. The next stage will involve drilling to about 25 metres underground to determine whether the rock formations are suitable for a large scale carbon storage project.
Project manager for the GB Energy gas proposal, Iain McCoy, insisted the project would provide local jobs, especially during the initial construction phase.
About 20 people attended a community meeting on Saturday and heard that the seismic testing pulse source in the Golden Beach region would be minimal — less than 95 per cent of a traditional seismic program.
If development goes ahead, a horizontally drilled pipeline will be drilled along an existing easement, reappearing behind the beach, linking up to a processing plant which hooks into the Eastern Gas Pipeline.
A Bass Coast-based group opposing the coal-to-hydrogen project, said the project affected everyone from the Bass Coast to people in and around the Latrobe Valley.
The federal government has committed $100 million to the pilot project, and in October fast tracked the construction of a terminal at Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula to process coal from the Latrobe Valley.
“Local residents and business people hold grave concerns that this would set conditions in the bay (Westernport) back decades and further degrade the area,” she said.
“Latrobe Valley deserves a sustainable job creation boost, not one that is likely to be another failed project.
“Our governments should suspend the spending of $100 million dollars on the trial because the full-blown project is too damaging, expensive and inefficient to consider going ahead with, and therefore the trial is redundant and not worth the threat of introducing marine pests.”
The group has a petition at www.savewesternport.org.
The two community information meetings on the CarbonNet project will be at the Golden Beach Community Centre on Tuesday, January 22, from 1.30pm to 3pm and 4pm to 5.30pm.