No satisfactory answers from CarbonNet

Ian Onley, Gormandale


I ATTENDED a CarbonNet public information evening on Wednesday, August 1, at Golden Beach.

CarbonNet Project is intending to survey the Golden Beach offshore area for suitability of storing carbon dioxide gas, in deep, undersea rock formations (carbon capture and storage, or CCS).

The construction of a coal to hydrogen pilot plant in the Latrobe Valley, funded jointly by federal and state governments in partnership with Japanese company Kawasaki, is relying on being able to sink its carbon dioxide emissions into these formations as a condition of its approval.

I was pretty shocked at what I saw and heard at this meeting.

Instead of presenting their information to a group collectively, the format was to have one-on-one conversations with people.

I was shocked at the incorrect information I received.

I asked a consultant what the likely cost of pumping the CO2 into the formation would be.

“We think we can do it for $50 per tonne of CO2”, was the reply, and that this cost would probably be borne by carbon credits.

I understood, the process would cost way more than that, so I did some research on this when I got home and found figures on the Global CCS Institute website.

For a super critical power station, CCS would cost $104 per tonne of CO2 or $130 per MWh of electricity.

Additional research showed these figures are probably incorrect, and that the extraction of CO2 from the energy used to extract CO2 from the emissions in the first place was not being factored in — hence the cost blowouts and halting of these projects all over the world and technical difficulties.

This was contrary to information given by the consultants.

Later I asked the same consultant how it could be economical when hydrogen can be split from water with renewable energy through electrolysis and avoid the need for carbon capture and storage and possible risks to the Golden Beach community.

To which the person replied, “that costs 10 times more than extracting hydrogen from coal … based on research from CSIRO”.

That information is at least 10 years out of date, and the CSIRO is now saying that electrolysis of water to create hydrogen is cheaper.

A bit more research turned up two Australian projects approved to extract hydrogen from water.

Crystal Brook energy complex will consist of a 150 megawatt solar farm, 150MW wind farm, 50MW hydrogen plant and 400MW battery storage. Cost, $600 million.

At Port Lincoln, a wind-solar electrolyser, will produce 10 tonnes hydrogen per day for a cost of $35 million.

When the hydrogen is burnt, in a combustion engine or fuel cell, it turns back into water.

Kawasaki’s pilot coal to hydrogen plant, costed at $496 million (of which $100 million is taxpayers’ money) will produce three tonnes of hydrogen from 160 tonnes of coal.

I was told by another consultant that CCS was about addressing climate change.

This is false.

Even if CCS worked for this project, it would not be carbon neutral.

The government no doubt sees this as $100 million for an investment of $350 million from a foreign company to create jobs.

But I’m wondering, why Kawasaki is risking its money?

Has the federal government tied itself up so that the project can’t be stopped when CCS isn’t achieved?

Chevron’s Barrow Island project is a good example of how our government regulators look the other way when it’s convenient.