Hazelwood brown coal power station is located over nearly 1000 hectares in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia. Hazelwood is owned by UK company International Power.
“For its age and technology, International Power Hazelwood''s power station is now one of the most efficient stations of its kind in the world” is a claim made on the website under ‘Future’. It was built in 1964 using technology from the 1950s and was destined to be shut down in 2005 but the Victorian Government has extended it’s operation deadline to at least 2027 and it will still likely be operating in 2030. The 2005 business Report from the plant notes approval to open the mine’s West Field, with the associated diversion of roads and rivers, to secure the plant’s coal supplies for the next 30 years into 2035.
In July 2005 WWF surveyed the worlds major industrialised countries and found that Hazelwood was the most polluting power station in Australia and the developed world. Checkout www.wwf.org.au/news/n223
Hazelwood had in fact reduced it’s greenhouse gas production by 7.8% on the 1996 levels at the time the survey was done. Meaning that at least some of the ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the plant had been taken up by that point.
The power plant continues to spew out over one and a half million tonnes of greenhouse gasses every month, providing Melbournians with cheap power.
Other than CO2 the plant also is nearly the largest emitter of hydrochloric acid as well as putting out huge amounts of nitrogen oxides and a long list of other nasty pollutants. Checkout the National Pollutant Inventory for complete details.
The Hazelwood 2004 report shows that dust released to the atmosphere is around 400,000 tonnes per month (down from over a million tonnes of dust up until 2001).
By it’s own admission the power station produces ‘enormous quantities of warm water’ which are directed into the holding pond to cool. Warm water doesn’t sound too harmful but it can change the ecology of downstream rivers
The mine also needs to divert rivers to get to the West Field.
Blue Green Algae in the cooling pond has often exceeded limits.
The tailing dumps contain ash ponds where the water is alkaline, saline and has a hight sulphate content. This water has potential to seep into and pollute the groundwater below.
By using enormous amounts of water the mine reduces what is available for other uses and the Hazelwood Cooling Pond takes water from the Moondarra Reservoir to balance pH and salinity. In 2005 the mine used 1.31 MegaLitres of water for every GigaWatt hour of power generated.
The mine also vents out huge amounts of pressurised water from underground to stabilise the landscape. This 50 degree celcius water is spilled into the cooling pond. In 2005 the mine discharged around 6,000,000,000 litres of water in this manner.
The mine spays water onto the coal to reduce the chance of it catching fire and to suppress dust.
The mine states that it has rehabilitated 558 hectares of land using native trees and grass. In reality this land is a huge slag heap of mine tailings up to 50 meters high. The trees will help to stabilise the heap. A total of 3,000 trees were planted, at full retail price of $2.50 each a tree that is $7,500 worth of trees, less if you buy in bulk. Not a lot when you consider the money that comes from the mine.
As coal is removed from the mine the pressurised water in the aquifer underneath tries to push the land above it upwards. This pressure is reduced by pumping water out of the aquifer and spilling it into the cooling pond. Aside from being a huge wasted of water it has the effect of causing land subsidence at and around the mine.
A State such as Victoria which sources a large amount of its electricity from brown coal, will have a relatively high emission factor for electricity purchased (up to 1.4 kg CO2/kWh), as brown coal is converted to electricity at only 24-28% efficiency and brown coal is high in greenhouse intensity. In contrast, the Northern Territory which largely uses lower greenhouse intensity fuels such as natural gas and diesel fuel at efficiencies of 30-45%, generates less than 0.7 kg/kWh. Source: http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/local/publications/pubs/audit.pdf
Future of Hazelwood
In the 2004 annual report a Dave Quinn working on upgrades to the power station wondered "It'll be interesting now if we are given enough of a future to repay the investment". (page 40) If those working on an 85 million dollar upgrade publicly doubt if Hazelwood has a future then maybe they also know the power plant has no social licence to operate.
Endnote and Links;
Hazelwood is no loner in the brown coal industry, there are two other large brown coal power plants in the LaTrobe Valley, Yallourn and Loy Yang. All three are feeding electricity into a grid that spans Victoria and New South Wales.
Hazelwood power http://www.hazelwoodpower.com.au
Business Report http://www.hazelwoodpower.com.au/documents/reports/2005_Business_Report.pdf
WWF Report http://www.wwf.org.au/news/n223
National Pollutant Inventory http://www.npi.gov.au/cgi-bin/npireport.pl?proc=facility_report;instance=public;year=2006;loc_type=state;loc_state=VIC;jur_fac_id=13355