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Greenpeace slams Solid Energy briquette plant plan

Tuesday 25th January 2011 5 Comments

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Environmental groups have slammed plans by state-owned Solid Energy to use lignite, or low-grade coal, to produce briquettes in Southland for local use and export.

Solid Energy will apply for resource consents from Gore District Council and Environment Southland next month to build and operate a demonstration plant at the former Mataura mine site.

Greenpeace said briquette production at the plant would be a "crime of global significance", opening up six billion tonnes of lignite in Southland.

The environmental group has also urged dairy co-operative Fonterra - a large user of coal to power its milk production facilities - not to buy any briquettes from the project.

Fonterra already burns lignite at its Edendale milk powder factory near Mataura.

A Fonterra spokesman told NZPA that the company had no plans to use briquettes to fuel any of its plants.

Solid Energy had not finalised any sale contracts for briquettes, but some existing commercial customers - not including Fonterra - had already successfully tested them, Solid Energy spokeswoman Sarona Iosefa told NZPA.

The former Mataura mine site was chosen because it is close to a reliable power supply, has a range of transport options nearby and is already zoned industrial with some existing consents for a coal operation.

Lobby group Coal Action Network also criticised Solid Energy's plans.

"These 'Think Big' style lignite projects are for the benefit of a number of huge local and foreign companies, not for the rest of us," said spokeswoman Frances Mountier.

"At a time when we should be doing everything we can to reduce carbon emissions, this state-owned enterprise is rushing headlong into massive coal extraction."

In order to receive resource consents for the project, Solid Energy had to prove it would comply with conditions covering air emissions, noise and water discharge, Iosefa said.

Any decision about its commercial viability would be made once the demonstration plant successfully produced low-moisture, higher-energy briquettes.

The proposed plant - capable of producing about 90,000 tonnes of briquettes a year from 150,000 tonnes of Southland lignite - would supply the New Zealand industrial market with briquettes, and trial their value for export.

It is a joint venture with American-based GTL Energy, and one of three lignite conversion projects proposed by Solid Energy in Southland.

In November, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright raised concerns about the increase in greenhouse gas emissions if lignite resources were exploited, saying it would be better for the environment if it remained in the ground.

Other uses for lignite include conversion into diesel or being made into the fertiliser urea.

New Zealand has 10 to 15 billion tonnes of lignite resources, mostly in Southland.



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Comments from our readers

On 26 January 2011 at 8:22 am JP said:
Greenpeace will always slam something that does not support their own program. This will supply jobs and much needed cash to the south. If it was not for the Greens Pike River would have been open caste, 29 men would still be alive and the west coast would be thriving, especially as coal prices are going up due to the Queensland floods. In many areas open caste mining happened, 25 years after the mine shut you have no idea of where it was. Open Pike from the top, its only 120 meters down to the miners, get them out then get the coal out. As to the Greenpeace sod off you never make peace only trouble.
On 26 January 2011 at 8:51 am Richard said:
If we're serious about reversing our current account defecit, and closing the income gap with Australia, then as a country NZ needs to realise it cant leave its vast natural resources sitting in the ground whilst other countries extract theirs freely and profitably. One thing I am sure of, even if we do start to make use of these resources, it will be more responsibly than most other countries extracting, processing, selling and burning theirs.
On 26 January 2011 at 11:54 am Peter said:
Just what sort of industry that earns export dollars to maintain the import of the goods and materials that we need to support a standard of living for our citizens that aligns with the lower ranks of the OECD nations would Greenpeace support? Clean green technologies as a source of export revenue that will substantially replace extractive and primary industries are a pipe dream for the immediate future and our mainstream politicions know it. The first comment is certainly right on the button regarding Pike River Coal.
On 27 January 2011 at 5:04 pm Doug Gordon said:
Coal Action and Greenpeace Comment is misleading- duplicitous. The benefits to future generations of Kiwis is to become independant of imports for our transport fuels,fertilisers for Primary products,and gas for energy. Further,pacific island atolls are,regardless of climatic effects, sinking, a geological fact! And the mandate of the Commissioner for the environment is one sided only to be concerned for the Natural environment not to consider human needs.
On 9 February 2011 at 5:22 pm Robert Ashe said:
Unlike the other angry white middle-aged business men commenting on this article, I'm not going to make hateful comments about a well-meaning non-profit organisation. A healthy economy relies on a healthy environment. Dirty coal has no place in the clean-tech green-tech economy of the future. Thanks Greenpeace for keeping big business honest.
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