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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.
Stage 3 - Activity Notification and Approval
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).
On 5 November 2018, as detailed in the letter below, Leigh Creek Energy requested from the Department for Energy and Mining, Energy Resources Division (DEM-ERD) a temporary suspension for up to 4 weeks for its 90 day UCG trial for the purpose of re-igniting the gasifier. LCK have advised that several options to re-ignite the gasifier will be considered, with the first option already provided to DEM-ERD for consideration as part of the company’s approved Management of Change process.
In response, on 7 November 2018 as detailed in the DEM-ERD letter below, approval was granted to suspend the trial conditional to at the expiration of the suspension (a maximum of up to 4 weeks to 5 December 2018), the 3-month UCG trial period will recommence.
Department for Energy and Mining Suspension Approval (PDF 495 KB)
Date Posted - Wednesday, 7th November 2018
DEM’s decision to grant Leigh Creek Energy a temporary suspension for up to 4 weeks for its 90 day UCG trial was informed and supported by independent expert, Dr Clifford Mallet, as outlined in Part 3 of his review of the Leigh Creek ISG pre-commercial demonstration facility.
On 1 February 2019, as detailed in the letter below, Leigh Creek Energy requested from DEM-ERD a 3-month extension of the production period as approved under Section 27(3) of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000. Leigh Creek Energy have outlined within their request that the Pre-Commercial Demonstration (PCD) is still in its commissioning (or “ramp up”) stage and has yet to sustain full flow rate gasification and production of syngas as defined in the relevant Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
Leigh Creek Energy are investigating options to progress the development of the gasifier to commence their operational phase and test plan regime. Only after full, stabilised flow rate gasification is achieved will Leigh Creek Energy be able to commence operation of its pre-commercial demonstration (PCD) trial to evaluate the technical and environmental feasibility of In-Situ Gasification (ISG) within the Telford Basin.
In response, on 6 February 2019 as detailed in the below DEM-ERD letter, approval was granted to extend the original 3-month production period for three months until 7 May 2019.
Leigh Creek Request for Production Extension (PDF 120 KB)
Date Posted - Thursday, 7th February 2019
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
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 following facts sheet is intended to provide the public with easily accessible information and highlight key aspects of the monitoring program for the Leigh Creek Energy underground coal gasification process.
|Monitoring Program for the Leigh Creek UCG Demonstration Plant Gasification Process|
|Download the brochure about the Monitoring Program for the Leigh Creek UCG Demonstration Plant (PDF 192 KB)|
|Monitoring Data for the Leigh Creek Energy UCG Demonstration Plant Gasification Process|
The follow monitoring data is presented in accordance with the diagram below, which represents an illustration of the three monitoring zones – green (greater than 100 metre radius), amber (~15-100 metre radius) and red (~0-15 metre radius) around the gasifier – which align with expected monitoring program observations. Further information on the monitoring programs for the Leigh Creek UCG Demonstration Plant Gasification Process is provided in the guide above.
Green zone (area outside of 100 metre buffer zone including the shallow main series overburden):- Updated 31 January 2019
From the date of ignition the sensors in the shallow overburden rock between 96 to 103 metres depth have shown no change in pressure (blue curve) and temperature (orange curve). No pressure and temperature variance from baseline is expected in this zone.
Amber zone (up to 100 metre buffer zone around the gasifier chamber including the main series overburden):- Updated 31 January 2019
From the date of ignition the sensors in the overburden rock between 415 to 493 metres depth have shown a minor decrease in pressure (blue curve) and no change in temperature (orange curve). Some pressure and temperature variance from baseline is expected in this zone given it is within 100 metre from gasifier.
Red zone (area including the gasifier chamber and surrounding main series coal seam):- Updated 31 January 2019
From the date of air injection and subsequent ignition, the sensors surrounding the gasifier chamber in the coal seam between 485 to 512 metres depth have shown a decrease in pressure (blue curve) and no change in temperature (orange curve). The decrease in pressure is mainly due to air circulation and depressurising between inlet and outlet wells, creating a pressure sink in the gasifier chamber. No change has been observed in temperature sensors approximately 15 metres from the ignition point in the coal seam. Coal has very low thermal conductivity and it is unlikely that any significant change in temperature will be seen in the sensors in the coal seam during the PCD period.
Furthermore, the gasifier operating pressure (purple curve) is below baseline hydrostatic pressure at approximately 5,000 kPa and also below surrounding pressure after ignition, indicating there is inward flow towards the gasifier and no loss of containment.
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.