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Trial to end at Kingaroy UCG plant

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Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability The Honourable Kate Jones

Friday, January 28, 2011

Trial to End at Kingaroy UCG plant

The Underground Coal Gasification trial plant near Kingaroy will not be allowed to recommence Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Kate Jones announced today.

Ms Jones said Cougar Energy could not demonstrate to the Department of Environment and Resource Management and the independent Scientific Expert Panel that it could recommence its operations without an unacceptable risk of causing environmental harm.

"We take the protection of our environment very seriously and any company that wants to do business in Queensland must meet their environmental obligations," she said.

"The trial has not been able to operate while the investigations have been under way.

"The only activity that Cougar will be authorised to undertake in the future is the full rehabilitation of the site.

"This has been a thorough and rigorous investigation and I would like to acknowledge the patience of the Kingaroy community.

"We’ve always said if the company couldn’t provide real evidence that it can recommence safely than we would not allow it to and that is the decision that has been made."

Department of Environment and Resource Management Director General, John Bradley, said the agency was not satisfied with two of the three reports the company was directed to provide after contaminants resulting from the underground gasification process were detected in groundwater monitoring bores on the Cougar site.

"The information contained in the Environmental Reports submitted to the Department by Cougar, particularly in relation to future risk management of processes on the site, was not able to provide sufficient confidence to the department or the independent Panel to allow Cougar to recommence," he said.

"The Environmental Protection Order preventing the recommencement of the gasification trial at Kingaroy will remain in place until the Environmental Authority is formally amended and all statutory review and appeal provisions open to Cougar are exhausted."

Ms Jones today said that the independent scientific panel report into the Cougar Energy operations at Kingaroy supports the department’s decision to close down the trial at the Kingaroy site.

The report stated that "the Cougar Energy trial not be reignited" and "Cougar Energy did not act sufficiently rapidly to shut down the facility when changes to infrastructure were first observed."

Ms Jones said the independent Scientific Expert Panel report into Linc Energy’s trial plant near Chinchilla recommended that Linc Energy pilot continue as planned and said the company was able to demonstrate a significant technical capacity.

The Minister said DERM had not finalised its investigations into Carbon Energy’s plant at Kogan and an Environmental Protection Order preventing further gasification by Carbon Energy’s UCG plant would remain in place.

"The order was issued in July 2010 following the release of waste water to land at the site," she said.

"While investigations indicate no ongoing environmental harm has occurred, these investigations will continue into the cause of this incident."

Ms Jones said the department is working through all recommendations of the Scientific Expert Panel reports.

The Panel will provide its final advice to Government on the technical viability and environmental sustainability of a large scale UCG industry in Queensland at the end of the trial.

The two reports will be available on the Department of Environmental Resource Management website today.

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