Video | Agriculture | Confidence | Economy | Energy | Employment | Finance | Media | Property | RBNZ | Science | SOEs | Tax | Technology | Telecoms | Tourism | Transport | Search


Lignite projects worth billions a year, Solid Energy says

Lignite projects worth billions a year even without carbon subsidies, says Solid Energy

By Pattrick Smellie

Feb. 17 (BusinessDesk) – State-owned coal miner Solid Energy Ltd. says its plans to convert low-energy lignite coal reserves to fertiliser and diesel would be profitable already today, even without being given free carbon credits to cover the huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions they would create.

Chief executive Don Elder told the Commerce select committee hearing that its proposal to make urea, currently imported to New Zealand as a fertiliser, would be “cash positive” to the tune of $1.5 billion a year at 2008 urea prices, while converting lignite to diesel would “double those numbers.”

“Economically, it’s a no-brainer,” said Elder, but technologies to capture, store or neutralise greenhouse gases released by the conversion process meant they could not yet be advanced.

Solid Energy’s calculations were based on the company receiving no “free allocations” of carbon emissions units, as have been granted to existing major emitting industries.

Asked whether that meant Solid Energy would not seek free allocations, Elder told BusinessDesk after the hearings: “That’s a different question” and declined to comment further.

He told the select committee the company was committed to creating a “net positive” impact on the New Zealand environment, despite mining coal, by implementing a rigorous sustainability programme that balances commercial, environmental, social and workplace measures and has been in place since 2003.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright, was highly critical of Solid Energy’s lignite conversion plans, issuing a report before Christmas that argued against granting free carbon credits to new heavy-emitting industries, and particularly criticised the carbon intensity of converting lignite to diesel.

At Solid Energy’s projected production rate of 35,000 barrels of diesel per day and a carbon cost of $50 per tonne, the cost to New Zealand taxpayers through the ETS would be almost $275 million a year, Wright said. If plans for two such plants eventuated, the cost would double and could represent an indefinite taxpayer subsidy.

The combination of its existing coal mining and planned lignite, underground coal gasification, coal seam gas could see Solid Energy producing the equivalent of one-third of New Zealand’s energy needs by 2020, said Elder. Gross carbon emissions from that activity could be between 10 million and 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent annually. “It’s a very large number,” he said.

Green MP Kennedy Graham questioned whether Solid Energy’s definition of sustainability within its own business was compatible with a definition of “sustainability for humanity.”

Under questioning on underground mine safety, Elder said the company had made great strides in reducing minor lost-time injury accidents, but it recognised that progress on that front did not necessarily translate to a lower likelihood of catastrophic events causing loss of life.

“If you only focus on small accident, you remain exposed to a major event. It’s a different level of risk, and that’s where we’re moving our focus.”

The company had already spent time examining world’s best practice in underground mines in the state of Queensland, which had upped its game after a series of mine explosions and fatalities in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Solid Energy strongly supported a beefed up, independent mine safety inspectorate service for New Zealand, and expected this to be one of the subjects covered in the Royal Commission into last year’s Pike River underground coal mine disaster, in which 29 men died.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Police: Counterfeit Banknotes - Businesses Urged To Be Aware

Wellington Police are asking businesses to be on the lookout for counterfeit money, after fake $50 and $100 banknotes were presented at businesses recently. While Police are making enquiries to establish the source of these banknotes, a person has been ... More>>

Frog Recruitment: Kiwi Workers Reluctant To Make Business Trips Across The Ditch Despite Trans-Tasman Bubble Opening

When the trans-Tasman travel bubble opens today, many Kiwi companies won't be rushing to buy an air ticket, reluctant to cross the ditch to do business. The latest survey conducted by leading recruitment agency, Frog Recruitment of nearly 1,000 New Zealand ... More>>

Tourism: Employers Welcome Back Working Holidaymakers

Tourism businesses gearing up for the return of Australian visitors from next week will be relieved to learn that they will also have access to an offshore pool of much-needed job candidates, Tourism Industry Aotearoa says. Tourism employers around ... More>>

Commerce Commission: Latest Broadband Report Confirms Improved Performance Of Premium Fibre Plans

The latest report from the Commerce Commission’s Measuring Broadband New Zealand programme shows that the performance of Fibre Max plans has improved substantially. This follows a collaboration between the Commission, its independent testing partner, ... More>>

Travel: Air New Zealand Celebrates Busiest Day Since COVID-19

Today is shaping up to be the biggest flying day for the airline since New Zealand closed its borders due to COVID-19. Air New Zealand General Manager Customer Leeanne Langridge says around 42,000 customers will be travelling on nearly 520 Air New Zealand ... More>>

Stats NZ: Prices For Transport And Housing Rise In March 2021 Quarter

Higher prices for transport and housing led to a 0.8 percent lift in the consumers price index in the March 2021 quarter, Stats NZ said today. Prices for getting around rose in the March quarter. Transport prices rose 3.9 percent, the biggest quarterly ... More>>

Stats NZ: New Report Shows Impact Of Demands On Land In New Zealand

A new environmental report released today by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ, presents new data on New Zealand’s land cover, soil quality, and land fragmentation. The land cover data in the report, Our land 2021 , provides the most ... More>>