A 150 METRE tall drilling rig has arrived in Port Phillip Bay before heading along the coast to spend the summer in Gippsland, testing rocks that could store carbon dioxide.
The Noble Tom Prosser rig will soon be drilling in Bass Strait - about eight kilometres offshore from the 90 Mile Beach - for the CarbonNet project, which is supported by the state government.
The aim of the drilling program is to prove that rock structures deep under the seabed can permanently store carbon dioxide emissions from the nearby Latrobe Valley, reducing emissions into the atmosphere.
Ahead of its trip to Gippsland, the rig will be viewable from the Port Phillip Bay shore as it comes through the heads and is unloaded from a large lift vessel before being towed out of the bay and east towards Gippsland.
CarbonNet project proponents say they are advancing the science of commercial-scale carbon capture and storage (CC S) through investigations at the Pelican site in Bass Strait, which they say has the potential to store the equivalent emissions from one million cars a year over a 25-year period.
Proponents say CC S has been extensively trialled in Victoria, with 80,000 tonnes of CO 2 safely stored for a decade at the CO 2CRC's Otway research facility.
The process involves capturing emissions from industry and storing the carbon deep below the seabed in rock structures, similar to the way oil and gas is stored naturally.
Drilling at the Pelican site in Bass Strait is expected to take between 45 and 60 days.
The rig will operate with a 500 metre exclusion zone in place for marine safety.
Offshore appraisal wells are used to confirm the properties of rock layers below the seabed and are common to the oil and gas sector in Bass Strait, having been used for more than 50 years.
This drilling activity has an approved Environmental Plan and will not target oil or gas deposits.
State Resources Minister Jaclyn Symes said the science behind CC S was "proven", and the time had come to test that work and put it into action at the Pelican site to help secure a low emissions future for Victoria.
"CarbonNet has the potential to store a wide range of emissions, from fertiliser and hydrogen production to energy generation," she said.
"These investigations are important steps in delivering climate change action - if the Pelican site is successful, it will be significant in achieving our emissions targets."
Governments around the world are looking to CC S to help meet greenhouse gas emission targets, complementing increased use of renewables and improved energy efficiency, with CarbonNet one of 51 CC S projects proposed or in place globally.
According to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority website, the jack-up rig will drill to a depth of about 1500 metres below the sea bed.
Drilling is scheduled to take place between late 2019 and the end of June 2020.