Pilot gas plant’s approval

DEMONSTRATION PROJECT: Looking south at the proposed demonstration plant site. Photo: Leigh Creek Energy.
DEMONSTRATION PROJECT: Looking south at the proposed demonstration plant site. Photo: Leigh Creek Energy.

Pilot gas plant’s approval

Construction will soon begin on Leigh Creek Energy’s (LCK) pilot gas plant after the company received the first of three final approvals required from the state government to begin its Pre-Commercial Demonstration. Information gathered during the Pre-Commercial Demonstration phase will inform the design for a potential commercial facility using in-situ gasification (ISG) to produce energy. 

The first approval will see an Aboveground Plant constructed on site at the decommissioned Leigh Creek Coalfield and is seen as a significant milestone in LCK’s progress to commercialisation. 

“Following approval of the first Activity Notification (AN), LCK can now commence on site construction activities,” LCK Managing Director Phil Staveley said. “This monumental moment for the company as it moves towards its objective of being a key provider of energy in Australia.”

Construction Approval of the Aboveground Plant includes installing equipment such as piping, tanks, generators, air compressors, gas analysers, separation vessels, cold vent, thermal oxidiser and well heads. The Aboveground Plant does not include the highly-contested process of ISG. Approvals for the remaining two Activity Notifications – Process Well Drilling and Operations (which includes operating, decommission and monitoring) – have not yet been received. Leigh Creek Energy will require those approvals before the ISG Demonstration Project can commence.

State Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the company are now allowed to access the site to help build their submission in order to gain approval to start operations. 

EXISTING SITE: The Leigh Creek coalfield. Photo: Leigh Creek Energy.

EXISTING SITE: The Leigh Creek coalfield. Photo: Leigh Creek Energy.

“The project is not guaranteed permission to progress, but the company is certainly welcome to seek further permissions which will be thoroughly assessed with regard to the safety of people, the environment and Aboriginal heritage,” he said.

The ISG process, which converts coal from its solid state into a gaseous form, has caused controversy in the past when it was banned in Queensland after Linc Energy’s project near Chinchilla led to widespread contamination. Since the Leigh Creek Energy Project gained traction in 2016, many locals in surrounding townships have been vocal in their opposition.

“We all want new employment opportunities in country and outback parts of our state, but the government will never allow irresponsible projects to proceed,” Mr van Holst Pellakaan said. “Because one company was found to have knowingly and deliberately damaged the environment interstate that should not prevent consideration of allowing another company to use the same technology properly. 

A spokesperson from LCK said it was important to note that the Demonstration Project is an exploration activity for the next phase of the project. 

“This project has been rigorously reviewed by the Energy Resources Division of the Department of Premier and Cabinet and, in addition, has been independently analysed by various subject matter experts across the world,” the spokesperson said.

“LCK endeavours to become entrenched in the Leigh Creek and Copley communities as our project progresses through a variety of community projects.

“Benefits to the town of Leigh Creek and Far North of SA, specifically for the Demonstration Project include direct economic benefits to the Leigh Creek and Copley townships resulting from supply of fuel, food, accommodation and other services.”