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The HRL coal fired power station

Check here for our HRL action alert (Sept 2010).

4th August, 2010: HRL proposal tests government resolve on climate. FoE release available here.

What is the HRL proposal?

Dual Gas - a subsidiary of Melbourne company HRL – is planning to build and operate a $750 million, 600MW coal fired power plant in the Latrobe Valley near the Loy Yang B power station.

HRL has been attempting to build a coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley since the project was announced by then Minister for Energy and Resources Candy Broad in 2002, and had promised the power station would be operating in 2008. It has been through a range of investors and management structures since then.

The HRL project has struggled to find any financial backers apart from the State and Federal Government. Last year, Chinese manufacturer Harbin Power withdrew its 50 per cent stake.

The plant was originally intended to be 400MW, and if allowed to proceed  this new coal station will add 4.2 million tonnes of greenhouse polluting emissions to Australia’s atmosphere annually, increasing Victoria's annual emissions by about 3 per cent.

It currently has an approval application with the Victorian Environment Protection Authority. The EPA must deliver a decision on the proposal by Jan 2, 2011.

What are the claims that this will be 'cleaner'


The proponent hopes that the plant will produce power with about 30 per cent less carbon dioxide emissions than current Victorian 'best practice' in brown coal generation plants.

This is because of new technology, called ‘integrated drying and gasification combined cycle’ or IDGCC. This technology has been developed by the Australian-owned energy, technology and project development company HRL, with more than $140 million research and development investment.

This has been substantially subsidised by the tax payer through state and federal funding.

Who are HRL?


HRL was formerly part of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria and was known as Herman Research Laboratories, privatised by the Kennett Government in 1995. It is a privately owned, non-listed Australian company of which Kerry Stokes (Channel 7) is a 40% shareholder. HRL owns and operates several coal facilities in the Latrobe Valley and is involved in the development of coal projects across Australia.

How can HRL be called ‘clean coal’?


Clean coal is an oxymoron. The HRL coal station will burn brown coal in a process known as Integrated Drying Gasification Combined Cycle (IDGCC). This technology has only been tested in a pilot scale and not commercially proven. If the HRL coal-fired power plant goes ahead it will produce greenhouse emissions at a similar scale to that of a standard black coal fired power station.

How much greenhouse pollution would HRL emit?


Emissions from HRL are expected to be up to 4.2 million tonnes of CO2 annually, with an expected expected emissions intensity of between 0.78 and 0.89 tonnes of CO2 per megawatt hour (MW) - roughly the equivilent of a modern black coal power station. HRL is not proposed in order to replace any existing coal power stations, it will add to our annual emissions. HRL cannot be built with carbon capture and storage (CCS) as according the Energy Minister Peter Bachelor “no infrastructure currently exists to store CO2 captured from power stations in the Latrobe Valley.”

HRL and water


HRL would consume approximately one tonne of water per MWh, or 3 gigalitres (3 billion litres) a year from an already stressed Latrobe Valley river system.

What about jobs


Australian Manufacturing Workers Union Gippsland regional organiser Steve Dodd has said he is concerned that most of the construction would take place overseas before the pre-fabricated plant was shipped to Victoria. This would mean there would be far fewer jobs than would be the case with a conventional coal fired power station.

Who is paying for HRL?


The Victorian Government has committed $50 million to the project as part of its Energy Technology Innovation Strategy (ETIS).

HRL then attracted a further $100 million from the Australian Federal Government’s Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund (LETDF) for the construction of the new power station.

The company is still seeking financing to be able to complete the project.

State of the project


The company has attempted to re-brand its stalled coal project as a gas-fired power station after it was realised that the current proposal would not meet the new energy emissions standards outlined in the Victorian governments Climate Change Bill.

It is saying that it hopes to have the project running by 2012 or 2013.

The plant can go ahead only if the Victorian Environment Protection Authority was satisfied it met the emissions limit for new plants - 0.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted per megawatt hour generated.

In its most recent application posted on the EPA website, HRL estimates its plant would have average emissions between 0.78 and 0.89 tonnes per megawatt hour - roughly equivalent to a modern black-coal power plant.

In August 2010 it withdrew its current application and lodged a very similar proposal in early September.

Our position


Friends of the Earth strongly opposes this project, and the building of any new coal fired power stations, as it will lead to an increase in emissions and defer the inevitable transition to a low carbon future.

Australia needs a moratorium on all new coal fired power stations and a rapid and just transition to a renewable energy future.

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