CTSCo's project engineer monitoring and verification Nick Hudson explains techincal details of the project at an information session in Wandoan in 2016.
CTSCo's project engineer monitoring and verification Nick Hudson explains techincal details of the project at an information session in Wandoan in 2016. Matthew Newton

Callide MP slams plan to 'acidify' Great Artesian Basin

FIRST-TERM Callide MP Colin Boyce has used his maiden speech in Queensland Parliament to slam a part-Federally funded plan by mining company Glencore to "acidify" the Great Artesian Basin. 

Carbon Transport and Storage Company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Glencore, is working through modelling and technical studies as part of its plan to inject 60,000 tonnes of liquid CO2 per annum for three years, into the Great Artesian Basin's high quality Precipice Sandstone Aquifer, west of Wandoan, on the Western Downs.

The project is funded by Australian Coal Association Low Emissions Technologies to the tune of $15.24 million, and received $8.775 million from the Federal Government's Carbon Capture and Storage Research Development and Demonstration Fund in August 2016, announced by Senator Matt Canavan. 

According to the project's website, studies are expected to finish this year, with the trial injection to take place in 2020/21.

In Parliament on Thursday, Mr Boyce slammed the proposal, saying: "The people of Callide do not want another Linc Energy fiasco".

Wandoan resident Bill Blackley discussing concerns over carbon sequestration with Banana Shire Mayor Nev Ferrier, Member for Callide Colin Boyce and Senator Matt Canavan.Photo contributed
Wandoan resident Bill Blackley discussing concerns over carbon sequestration with Banana Shire Mayor Nev Ferrier, Member for Callide Colin Boyce and Senator Matt Canavan.Photo contributed Contributed

"This is a highly controversial issue with serious environmental and social ramifications, should it be allowed to proceed and should it fail. The Great Artesian Basin covers approximately 70 per cent of Queensland.

"It is the largest underground water storage system in the world. When you mix carbon dioxide with water it becomes carbonic acid, lowering the pH of the water, potentially rendering the water source useless.

"The environmentalists will argue that carbon dioxide is the toxic pollutant that is driving climate change.If that is so, why would we allow the Great Artesian Basin to be used as a toxic waste dump? On the earth's driest habitable continent, why would we compromise a precious water source?"

Mr Boyce said what troubled him, is that the issue "may not make the floor of parliament for debate". 

"The company involved will take its submissions to the EPA and to the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and seek their approvals."

A CTSCo spokeswoman said the company recently met with Mr Boyce on the need for us to provide the local community with confidence that our assessment project is scientifically and environmentally sound.

"CTSCo agrees that if we cannot demonstrate that CO2 can be stored in an environmentally sustainable manner, the project should not proceed.

"This includes interaction with water aquifers and the Great Artesian Basin.

"The feasibility study will involve extensive scientific studies with expert third-party researchers and will provide comprehensive data on safely storing CO2 deep underground.

"CTSCo will continue to engage with Mr Boyce and the community to provide information and address any concerns related to the project."

The spokeswoman said it was important to understand two things - that the project was not a Coal Seam Gas project, and that CO2 "is not a toxic substance". 

"Any suggestion we are creating a toxic waste dump is simply wrong. We breathe in CO2 every day, plants are reliant on CO2 and it is also used in products we consume, such as carbonated drinks and beer."

If the trial does go ahead in 2020/21, 60,000 tonnes of liquid CO2 per annum would be injected into the aquifer from a Glencore-owned property 15km west of Wandoan for three years to determine the feasibility of a larger-scale project.

The "super-critical" liquid CO2, with half the density of water, would dissolve into the aquifer's water, acidifying it to a pH of 5. Water has a pH of 7.

The acidified water will form a plume, and CTSCo is hoping studies and modelling will show the plume will remain within the confines of the property boundary.

If studies find the plume will escape the property boundaries, the project will not go ahead.

When the project was first promoted to the Wandoan community in late October, 2016, the community unanimously opposed it. 

Senator Canavan was recently in Texas, talking up the benefits of carbon capture and storage programs.