Firm's $30m carbon bill

City firm Thiess is set for a huge carbon tax bill. Ishrar Ali is manager of Landfills, Transfer Stations, and Transport.
City firm Thiess is set for a huge carbon tax bill. Ishrar Ali is manager of Landfills, Transfer Stations, and Transport. David Nielsen

THE operator of the Swanbank landfill site must find up to $10 million per year to cover the cost of the carbon tax.

But that is just a fraction of what the Stanwell gas-fired power station next door will fork out.

The 385 megawatt Swanbank E power station will have a carbon tax bill of about $19,090,000 - the result of forecast emissions of 830,000 tonnes.

The massive landfill site behind Swanbank power station was set up by Thiess Services to turn household waste into electricity 10 years ago.

Even though it was designed as a green-energy project, the site will incur a hefty tax from 2014 onwards.

The company has refused to go into detail about how it will raise the money to pay the tax, except to say that costs will be passed onto its customers which include Ipswich and Brisbane city councils.

Both councils have blamed higher waste disposal charges for passing above-inflation rates increases this year.

Each of the 600,000 tonnes of waste that is stored at the landfill each year produces about 45kg of methane.

Under the carbon tax, methane gas emissions incur a penalty 21 times greater than carbon dioxide, but until recently, that gas was used to produce electricity in lieu of fossil fuels.

The closure of Swanbank B power station means Thiess is now looking into alternatives ways to use its methane to make electricity.

Methane gas capture from landfills is nothing new in Australia, in fact over 20 years it has reached the point where it is responsible for contributing 12 per cent of the country's 20 per cent renewable energy target.

Thiess Services claims that one year of removing methane gas from the Swanbank landfill and turning it into electricity is equivalent to removing 36,000 cars from the road or planting 13,500 hectares of trees.

A spokesman from the company said current legislation was also dampening any incentive to become more efficient.

However, current federal legislation assumes that only 75% of gas can be effectively captured from a landfill.

"For example, if a landfill generates 100,000 tonnes of gas and captures 75,000 tonnes it has a liability of 25,000 tonnes," the Thiess spokesman said.

"If the same landfill captures 90,000 tonnes of gas, the legislation assumes that it generated 120,000 tonnes, because 90,000 is 75% of 120,000."

A spokeswoman for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Minister Greg Combet said that under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Determination, landfill operators could choose from three options for reporting the percentage of methane gas captured.

Method 1, which is used by Thiess, is designed for landfills without information about how fast waste decays at the facility.

The 75% rule does not apply under method 2, where a facility that no longer receives waste may take measurements and demonstrate capture rates as high as 90-95%.

Green Power

  • Two Ipswich City Council-owned landfills on Whitwood Rd, Ebbw Vale, stopped receiving waste on July 1 this year, but will continue to be used to produce methane for power generation.
  • Because of this, they will not incur a carbon tax bill.
  • The Whitwood Rd operation produces 8500 MWh of electricity per annum, which is sold back into the grid

Topics:  bill carbon tax

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