By Christine McKee
STANWELL Power Station was in the direct line of fire at two community forums in Rockhampton and Gladstone last week, where organisers said Central Queenslanders were being exposed to unnecessarily high concentrations of toxic air pollutants.
Dr James Whelan from Envirojustice Australia said neither Gladstone nor Stanwell power stations were fitted with modern emission control technologies, mandatory in power stations in the United States, Europe and China and able to reduce toxic emissions by 90 per cent.
While in Gladstone, Dr Whelan met with the Queensland Department of Environment and Science’s Director of Compliance but was told there was no schedule for reviewing power station licences, something he believes there is a strong case for.
He said Stanwell Power Station has no ambient air pollution monitoring within 100km of the power stations and no community access to monitoring data.
“It’s extraordinary that there are no stack emission limits set for fine particle pollution, sulphur dioxide or mercury,” Dr Whelan said.
“The power station is permitted to emit oxides of nitrogen (NOx) at concentrations up to 13 times as high as allowed for power stations in the United States.”
Acting Stanwell Power Station site manager Angie Zahra said the power station was one of the most efficient coal-fired power stations in Australia, with an emissions intensity below the industry average.
“The falling cost of new renewable energy means it will continue to be introduced into the market,” Ms Zahra said.
“Our role at Stanwell Power Station is to make sure energy remains affordable and reliable.
“We recognise we need to do this in a responsible way which balances the needs of the environment and our community.”
She said the power station used electrostatic precipitators, which were 99 per cent effective in capturing particulate emissions; all generation units had low NOx burners, designed to significantly reduce emissions of oxides of nitrogen and turbines had been upgraded to burn less coal to produce the same amount of electricity and reduce emissions.
“We have invested in an advanced control system which allows us to closely monitor every aspect of the power station’s performance,” she said.
“Our sophisticated Continuous Emissions Monitoring System monitors NOx, SO2 and particulate emissions in real time and this data is used to optimise the process and ensure emissions are well below regulatory limits,” she said.
NRG general manager, Chuck Mason said Gladstone Power Station operated within its environmental licence limits in every respect, including emissions.
He said data from the Clean and Healthy Air for Gladstone air quality monitoring program was publicly available.
Envirojustice Australia now plans to meet with Queensland’s Environment Minister, Leeann Enoch to push for power station licencing reviews, similar to NSW and Victoria.
Published by Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin on 13 August 2018