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Leigh Creek Energy has proposed to construct and operate an in-situ gasification demonstration plant at Leigh Creek, within the old mine site. This proposed demonstration plant will involve the establishment of a single gasifier chamber and associated above-ground infrastructure to produce synthesis gas (commonly referred to as syngas) for a short period of time (approximately 2-3 months), to test the syngas composition and process performance to enable consideration of potential commerciality.
For further information on the ISG process please see our Frequently Asked Questions Brochure on Underground Coal Gasification.
Statement of Environmental Objectives and Environmental Impact Report
All regulated activities conducted under the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000 (PGE Act) must have an approved Statement of Environmental Objectives in place with which they comply, prepared on the basis of an Environmental Impact Report. Leigh Creek Energy has prepared an Environmental Impact Report and Draft Statement of Environmental Objectives in relation to its proposed In-situ gasification (otherwise known as UCG) project for assessment by the Energy Resources Division, in close consultation with relevant co-regulatory agencies.
|Environmental Impact Report - Leigh Creek Energy, ISG Demonstration Plant, April 2018||Statement of Environmental Objectives - Leigh Creek Energy, ISG Demonstration Plant, April 2018|
|Download the Environmental Impact Report (PDF 17.1MB)||Download the Statement of Environmental Objectives (PDF 1.52MB)|
For further information on the approvals process, including relevant stages and consultation requirements, please see Activity Approval Process.
If an activity is deemed by the Energy Resources Division in consultation with relevant co-regulatory agencies, to be of Medium Impact according to the criteria for classifying the level of environmental impact of regulated activities then public comment will be sought on the associated Environmental Impact Report and draft Statement of Environmental Objectives.
The Energy Resources Division on the 16 January 2018 invited public comment on the proposed Leigh Creek Energy In-situ gasification Environmental Impact Report and draft Statement of Environmental Objectives. As part of this process the Energy Resources Division also consulted with targeted stakeholders through email correspondence, presentations to the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association Native Title Body (ATLA) and the Northern Flinders NRM group and a community drop in session at Copley.
This formal public consultation period closed on the 28 February 2018.
Submissions have now closed
A number of issues were raised by internal government and the wider public in a total of 102 submissions, including:
- potential contamination of ground water and impacts to local air quality;
- matters relating to Aboriginal heritage in the Leigh Creek Area; and
- concerns regarding the Linc Energy UCG project at Chinchilla in Queensland and the alleged failure to comply with the Queensland Environmental Protection Act 1994.
All submissions received during this process were provided to Leigh Creek Energy to adequately address to the Energy Resource Division’s, and its co-regulators, satisfaction. Leigh Creek Energy’s responses to these submissions can be found within Section 7.4 and Appendix E and F of their EIR document.
All prospective operators, prior to any on-ground activities, must adhere to the three stage approvals process under the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000, which is outlined in the Guide to the licensing and approvals process for exploration, retention and production activities flowchart.
|Stage 1 - Licensing - PEL 650 granted in November 2014 APPROVAL GRANTED|
|Stage 2 - SEO Approval - Gazetted on 19 April 2018 APPROVAL GRANTED|
|Stage 3 - Activity Approval - Approved on 3 September 2018 APPROVAL GRANTED|
The Licence Approval process (Stage 1) grants exclusive rights to an area to explore for resources but does not grant rights to undertake on-ground activities.
Leigh Creek Energy was granted its exploration licence, Petroleum Exploration Licence 650, in November 2014.
Further information on the Licensing process is available on the License Applications page.
The Minister for Energy and Mining on 19 April 2018 approved the Leigh Creek Energy Statement of Environmental Objectives in accordance with Part 12 of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000. The Energy Resource Division has developed an assessment summary report to summarise the main findings in relation to the potential issues and environmental risks associated with the Leigh Creek Energy Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) trial proposal and how they will be managed. The source of this information is from that detailed in the submitted Environmental Impact Report and from additional information acquired by the Energy Resource Division as the lead regulator of this project. All this information along with public submissions and advice from other co-regulatory agencies and independent geo-mechanics and UCG experts was utilised to inform the approval process for the Statement of Environmental Objectives under the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000 for this proposal.
Whilst approval of the Statement of Environmental Objectives is a significant step within the approvals process, this still does not provide rights to Leigh Creek Energy to begin on-ground works. To do this, Leigh Creek Energy will need to proceed to the third and final approval stage to obtain approval to commence on ground activities. This entails submission to Energy Resource Division for evaluation and approval of all technical and engineering designs relating to this activity to ensure the design and intended construction and monitoring of all surface facilities, pipelines, underground gasification chamber and wells are in accordance with recognised industry standards and fit for the purpose for achieving the requirements of the final approved Statement of Environmental Objectivesand conditions. This stage 3 approval process will also include, evaluation and approval of the licensee’s Environmental, Health and Safety Management Systems, monitoring plans, shut down and decommissioning plans, environmental assessments, environmental management plans, rehabilitation plans, cultural heritage assessments and emergency response procedures that are critical to the demonstrable achievement of the Statement of Environmental Objectives. Further information on Stage 3 approvals are provided within the assessment summary report.
For a copy of the assessment summary report please see below:
|Department for Energy and Mining's Assessment of Leigh Creek Energy UCG Trial Proposal|
|Download the Department for Energy and Mining's Assessment of Leigh Creek Energy UCG Trial Proposal. (PDF 1.9 MB)|
Independent Review (Stage 2)
The Energy Resources Division engaged Dr Gary Love to review the physical aspects of the subsurface at the Leigh Creek Energy site that are primary factors in containment of the UCG process, and to provide an expert statement on the suitability of this site for the purpose of UCG. Dr Love is a recognised Australian expert in the field of UCG who amongst other credentials detailed in his expert statement report he has appraised numerous potential sites for UCG both in Australia and internationally. Since 2014, he has acted as a fact witness and subject matter expert to the Queensland Department of Environment and Science (formerly Department of Environment and Heritage Protection) in the investigation and prosecution of Linc Energy, and has given evidence in the committal and trial.
The review also considers relevant operational risk factors described in the EIR, specifically the approach to well design and the definition of the safe operating pressure envelope, and the Linc Energy Limited UCG program in Queensland and the relevance of that experience to the proposed Leigh Creek Energy operation.
In summary, his findings detailed in his expert statement can be found in the report below
|Independent Review of Site Suitability and Subsurface Risks for the Proposed Leigh Creek Energy UCG Demonstration Plant|
|Download the Independent Review of Site Suitability and Subsurface Risks for the Proposed Leigh Creek Energy UCG Demonstration Plant report (PDF 470 KB)|
For further information on the approvals process, including relevant stages and consultation requirements, please see Activity Approval Process.
This approval process will be undertaken in three phases.
Each phase for approval, along with a respective decision or indicative assessment progress and date, are provided in the table below.
It is important to note that, where relevant, subsequent phases of approval are subject to the successful execution of the preceding phase of approved activities.
|Phases for Approval||Decision Reached||Date|
|Facility Construction||Approved||14 May 2018|
|Drilling of UCG Process and Monitoring Wells||Approved||29 May 2018|
|Facility Testing||Approved||19 June 2018|
|Gasifier Commissioning and Operation||Approved||3 September 2018|
Leigh Creek Energy has been approved to commission and operate a small 2-3 month trial of underground coal gasification (also known as In-Situ Gasification (ISG)) in a previously disturbed coal mine in the State’s Far North.
Strict conditions have been attached to the approval which include but are not limited to, ensuring regulatory presence when trial activities begin, notification of landholders and the community before activities begin, adherence to relevant management strategies and relevant monitoring plans and provision of weekly reports and notifications to the regulator.
The final approval decision has been informed through both international and national independent expert advice, the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Labs and both Dr Gary Love and Dr Cliff Mallett, both recognised as national leading experts in the area of UCG.
Furthermore, South Australia’s co-regulators in the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) have comprehensively assessed the technical and environmental risks associated with the Leigh Creek Energy pilot project in South Australia. This comprehensive assessment also included the findings and facts of the successful prosecution of Linc Energy’s Qld UCG project.
Both the independent experts and co-regulators have concluded that the Leigh Creek UCG project poses low environmental risks (including risks to water resources).
Leigh Creek Energy were required to develop to the satisfaction of the Energy Resource Division and other co-regulators a Groundwater and Soil Vapour Monitoring Plan and an Air Quality Monitoring Plan. This was a requirement of the Statements of Environmental Objectives and is key in measuring the level of compliance with the Statement of Environmental Objectives and relevant assessment criteria. Links to the relevant monitoring plans can be found below.
Groundwater and Soil Vapour Monitoring Plan (PDF 12.1 MB)
Air Quality Monitoring Plan (PDF 1.3 MB)
Independent Assessment (Stage 3)
The Energy Resources Division has engaged Dr Cliff Mallett, former CSIRO UCG research scientist to provide independent advice and confirmation of the site suitability, fitness for purpose of the proposed above and below ground infrastructure and the Groundwater and Soil Vapour Monitoring Plan to ensure the they adhere to good industry practice. Dr Mallett will be retained as the Governments independent advisor throughout the gasification trial and to verify the de-commissioning phase of the gasifier post completion of the trial.
Links to Dr Mallets' reviews are provided below.
Demonstration Plant Gasification Process Monitoring
At A Glance
Leigh Creek Energy is required to undertake considerable monitoring both on-site and in surrounding areas to ensure its 2-3 month underground coal gasification demonstration plant is compliant with approvals and is operating safely in relation to people and the environment.
The construction, operation and decommissioning of the UCG demonstration plant is required to achieve agreed environmental objectives and relevant assessment criteria stipulated in the approved Leigh Creek Energy ISG Demonstration Plant Statement of Environmental Objectives.
The fit for purpose monitoring programs measure air quality, water quality, soil vapours, temperature, pressure and surface/subsurface movement to ensure that identified risks are being appropriately monitored, meet established environmental objectives, and prompt corrective actions can be taken if necessary.
The monitoring programs establish the natural baseline of the site and surrounding areas, and are designed to measure any changes during and after the gasification process.
The monitoring programs have been reviewed and endorsed by the Department for Energy and Mining, in addition to relevant co-regulators including the Environment Protection Authority and Department for Environment and Water.
It is a requirement for Leigh Creek Energy to report its monitoring data to the Department for Energy and Mining. The Department for Energy and Mining will make relevant data publicly available, once verified by its independent expert, on the Department’s website. Any measurements outside established thresholds are to be immediately reported and corrective actions undertaken, including shutdown if necessary.
What is Being Monitored?
Modelling of air emissions and air quality impacts was undertaken on the underground coal gasification demonstration plant site and surrounding areas (including Leigh Creek and the Copley Township), prior to final project approval. The Department for Energy and Mining expect that emissions and intermittent odour, if detected, to be well below public health standards and in particular the Environment Protection (Air Quality) Policy 2016 (Air EPP) assessment criteria.
Leigh Creek Energy has installed air quality samplers at key locations between the UCG demonstration plant site and at Copley and the Leigh Creek township to measure background volatile organic carbons including BTEX, hydrogen sulphide, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide. These monitors continuously sample air over time to enable cumulative detection of these gases during a sampling period.
Additional air quality monitoring measures as stipulated in the approved Air Quality Monitoring Plan include:
- Ensuring favourable weather conditions at the time of commissioning;
- Established existing air quality around the region and background assessments undertaken;
- Odour management and monitoring including the need to promptly respond and investigate any complaints from nearby stakeholders, including the Copley community, and if validated undertaken appropriate remedial action taken;
- Two on site automatic weather stations, one recording wind data (speed and direction) and one recording wind speed, wind direction, solar radiation, humidity, rainfall and temperature;
- Field odour observations and hand held ambient air quality readings targeting near-field and far-field gases to demonstrate decline in concentrates with distance from plant;
- Frequency of air quality monitoring, including baseline monitoring one month prior to start-up of the Pre-Commercial Demonstration Plant and one month post decommissioning; and
- Portable multi gas monitors that monitor the plant area with sensors for carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide and nitrogen dioxide, to report against Safe Work SA exposure limits to various pollutants.
Water and Soil Quality
Monitored by dedicated monitoring wells that measure a combination of real time pressure and temperature at and adjacent to the underground gasification chamber, water quality and water levels. This monitoring approach ensures there is no sustained change to background water quality and/or loss of gasification products to the surface/subsurface. Both of which are environmental objectives in the Statement of Environmental Objectives that Leigh Creek Energy are required to achieve.
A key assessment criterion for achievement of the above objectives is the establishment of a 100m buffer zone around the gasifier chamber, with any sustained change to baseline water quality detected outside this zone constituting a breach of the Statement of Environmental Objectives. Additionally, the gasifier is required to be operated at all times below the hydrostatic pressure, which ensures that contaminants remain in the gasifier and are not travelling outwards into surrounding areas.
To demonstrate that the gasifier pressure is maintained below hydrostatic pressure, objective 2 of the Statement of Environmental Objectives assessment criterion requires real time monitoring of the gasifier and surrounding groundwater pressure and temperature. It is anticipated that significant pressure and temperature variations from natural baseline will be observed within the gasifier chamber and to a lesser extent within the 100 meter buffer zone in the adjacent overburden formation above the chamber. However, no variation in pressure or temperature should be observed within the overburden mudstone outside the buffer zone. An indicative illustration of these observations can be represented by three monitoring zones (green, amber and red) as shown in the figure below.
Monitored through the installation of specifically designed monuments around the demonstration site to detect any movement and/or subsidence in the surface or subsurface during and after the trial. Any movements in the surface and sub-surface will correspond with movement of the monuments, and prompt corrective actions can be undertaken. It is a requirement for Leigh Creek Energy to ensure no gasifier-induced subsidence is measure at the surface, otherwise, it is a breach of the Statement of Environmental Objectives.
While there is no credible threat of this UCG trial causing a seismic event, the existing Australian Seismic Monitoring Network provides continuous measurements of seismicity by Geoscience Australia, and adequately covers this region. Therefore, in the unlikely event of any seismic events occurring during this operation, this existing monitoring array will detect significant seismic events instantly.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following Frequently Asked Questions aims to provide the public with easily accessible and comprehensive responses to a range of questions asked by the public in relation to underground coal gasification. If you have a relevant questions not answered in the following Frequently Asked Questions, please contact the Energy Resources Division.
|Underground Coal Gasification in South Australia|
|Download the brochure about Underground Coal Gasification in South Australia (PDF 351 KB)|
As part of informing the regulatory process, Energy Resources Division commissions independent assessments and reviews, and constantly monitors national and international research to ensure decision-making relies on scientific, professional and appropriate assessment of risk.
Links to key research projects and assessments relevant to in-situ gasification (commonly referred to as underground coal gasification) are provided below:
|Key Findings of the Geomechanical Assessment of the proposed Leigh Creek UCG demonstration plant (PDF 140KB)|
Presentations by the Energy Resources Division in relation to underground coal gasification and/or the proposed Leigh Creek Energy in-situ gasification project are provided below.
|Presented at||Presented by and title of presentation|
18 October 2018
|Leigh Creek Energy Underground Coal Gasification Trial (PDF 5MB)|
Michael Malavazos, Director - Engineering Operations
Adnyamathanha Traditional Land Association Representatives
Adnyamathanha Traditional Land Association Board Presentation
Please note: these presentations are intended to provide general information on the Energy Resources Division, its role and regulatory functions, and proposed or current licensee projects under the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000 and associated regulations. Presentations should be considered in the context of the relevant legislation.