After ticking off three activity notification approvals and beating an injunction application, Leigh Creek Energy (LCK) produced first synthesis gas (syngas) at the former Leigh Creek coalfield on Thursday, October 11.
First syngas production was the final step of LCK’s Pre-Commercial Demonstration (PCD), following the construction of an Aboveground Plant and the drilling of three process wells.
The PCD acts as a trial for a potential commercial underground coal gasification (UCG) facility in Leigh Creek.
LCK Executive Chairman Justyn Peters said its a milestone moment for the company.
“This is the first major step towards proving our worth to the local community – that we can do this safely in the long-term and build an industry Leigh Creek and Copley can rely on,” Mr Peters said.
“The state government regulator has rigorously and unashamedly demanded our activities be safe-guarded to protect the nearby towns and environment, and we’ve done everything asked of us and more to get to this point.”
The South Australian Supreme Court dismissed an injunction application from the New South Wales Environmental Defenders Office to delay the operational start-up of the PCD last month.
While there has been a mixed reception for the commercial UCG project, LCK believes producing first gas is the first step towards earning the community’s trust.
Mr Peters said independent experts deemed the Leigh Creek coal mine as the best location in the world for successful and safe UCG operations.
“We are excited to share the results of this short-term demonstration and prove them correct in their analysis,” he said.
However, the Australian Greens remain firmly opposed to the project, with Senator Sarah Hanson-Young calling for federal government to intervene before “any irreversible damage is caused”.
“It is a disgrace it was ever given the go-ahead by the South Australian Liberal government,” Ms Hanson-Young said.
“The Greens will move in the Parliament to stop the Leigh Creek project and ban this absurd and harmful practice.
“This toxic practice poisons the water table and contaminates soil and air. It does immeasurable damage to the environment, and the climate. It has been linked to an increase in cancers, including lung and breast cancers.”
The PCD is expected to last between two and three months, with regulators and LCK staff undertaking around-the-clock environmental monitoring.