CarbonNet looks to next phases of project off Golden Beach

THE CarbonNet project, which is exploring methods of storing carbon dioxide in rock formations under Bass Strait, hopes to begin its next phase by the end of the year.

At an information session on Wednesday afternoon, project officers explained this would involve a contractor investigating the ocean floor between six to 11 kilometres offshore from Golden Beach, in Commonwealth waters.

There will be low level seismic sounding and sonar mapping from a ship, before a coring drill begins.

The results of the drilling, down to about 25 metres underground, will determine whether the rock formations are suitable for a large scale carbon storage project, which is linked to a coal-to-hydrogen export project in the Latrobe Valley.

Once the results are analysed, an appraisal well will be drilled.

The project will begin in the second half of this year or early next year — both tasks are estimated to take about a week each to complete.

CarbonNet director Ian Filby emphasised beachgoers in the summer would not be affected by the investigations.

“The summer months provide the ideal time to conduct the geotechnical and geophysical investigations, with better weather and calmer seas more likely,” he said.

“The vessels undertaking these investigations will be in Commonwealth waters between six and 11 kilometres offshore — there will be no impact on beach-goers or residents.

“The vessels may be visible at times from shore.”

The appraisal well phase is expected to begin late next year.

All work is subject to an environment plan, which will be submitted to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, a summary of which will be publicly available.

Previously, the Pelican 3D seismic survey analysed a much larger area, in March this year.

Information from the CarbonNet website notes the sound emitted would be less than five per cent of the Pelican phase of the project.

The news comes as the 90 Mile Beach Action Group Against Carbon Storage continues its campaign to end the project.

A spokesperson for the group said it arranged a peaceful protest outside the Golden Beach Community Hall during the information session, added the timing meant many people were unable to attend.

“According to the 2016 Census, in Golden Beach there are 446 dwellings, of which 303 are holiday homes,” she said.

“In Paradise Beach, there are 293 dwellings, of which 213 are holiday homes.

“We believe that due to the nature of the population, adequate community engagement can only occur if regular weekend meetings are held.

“CarbonNet were aware of the type of population in this area prior to commencement of the project, and should have ensured that their engagement strategy was tailored to this area prior to commencement of the project.”

The group held an information session immediately after the CarbonNet session, and said residents voiced concerns about the project and what they claimed was a lack of engagement.

“We believe residents were pleased to have this forum where they could voice their concerns,” they said.

“Some great ideas were generated, and will be followed up at the next action group meeting.”

Police did attend the first meeting, but Wellington police service area commander Inspector Scott Brennan said officers had not been called by any organisation, and were on a routine patrol.

The CarbonNet team will visit Golden Beach and other Gippsland towns again later this month.

They will hold information sessions regularly for the remainder of the year, including on weekends.