Coal-fired power station that caused power outages in Queensland has failed eight times last year | Queensland
The power plant explosion and fire that caused widespread blackouts in Queensland occurred in one of the state’s youngest coal generators, which broke down eight times last year.
CS Energy, a Queensland government-owned power company, claims that one of two units at the Callide C power plant – a “supercritical” plant built in 2001 that is often considered newer and cleaner than the old power plants – suffered “major damage” as a result of the fire.
CS Energy told the Australian energy market operator that it expects the unit to be unavailable for a year.
“Based on an initial overnight inspection, the C4 unit suffered major damage and turbine failure,” the generator said in a statement.
“It will take some time to fully understand the cause of failure and the steps [we] will have to take to repair the unit. “
The fire triggered the shutdown of the operating units of the Callide C and Callide B power stations and the tripping of the Gladstone and Stanwell power stations.
Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni said additional output from the pumped Wivenhoe hydropower station and Swanbank E power station (gas-fired) was able to cover the deficit and restore power in around 500,000 homes.
Some, including Callide’s renewable energy skeptic state deputy Colin Boyce and Nationals Senator Matthew Canavan have responded by calling for more electricity powered by baseline coal.
Richie Merzian, director of the climate and energy program at the Australian Institute, said the scale of power outages caused by a single power plant incident highlighted that the energy grid needed “more diversification, no more base load ”.
“The reason you have blackouts from Queensland to North New South Wales is because Queensland is still heavily dependent on a few large power plants,” Merzian said.
“All the beauty of diversification [energy generation] is to protect you against these kinds of events.
Merzian said Callide C failed eight times in 2020. The newest coal-fired power plant, Kogan Creek, built in 2007, is the least reliable in the country per unit of power it produces.
“Usually the breakdowns are not that bad and we are lucky that no one was injured.
“These supercritical plants, called ‘high efficiency and low emissions’, do not help with reliability.
“We want to avoid at all costs running these four huge power plants in half an hour.”
Merzian wondered whether – given recent statements from power producers who recognize a faster than expected market pivot to renewables – the badly damaged Callide C unit deserves repair.
“If it’s like a car, it will cost as much as building a new coal-fired power plant, then that’s write-off,” he said.
“It depends on the level of damage and its cost.
“But if it’s like building a new asset, you can’t see how it would stack up. Especially when you know that renewables and storage are the cheapest way to create a new generation.
De Brenni said the state spent $ 2.2 billion this year to maintain its energy assets.
“Since 2017, we have invested $ 324 million in Callide C – one of the youngest generators in our fleet,” he said.
“Operations and maintenance were carried out in accordance with statutory requirements, with the last overhaul having been completed in August 2020.”
“What demonstrated yesterday is the important role that our diversified public generators play in securing supply and stabilizing the network,” he said.
“It ultimately helped keep the lights on in Queensland last night.”