AGL's Bayswater power station upgrade plans is missing vital air pollution technology, say critics

Upgrade: Bayswater coal-fired power station at Muswellbook will have an upgrade to boost the state's power supply, but there's something missing, say air pollution activists.
Upgrade: Bayswater coal-fired power station at Muswellbook will have an upgrade to boost the state's power supply, but there's something missing, say air pollution activists.

THE NSW Government should reject a planned upgrade of Bayswater power station until owner AGL installs air pollution reduction technology that is standard in America, Europe, China and India, says a leading air pollution monitoring group.

Environmental Justice Australia has objected to a project that will help maintain the state’s power supply after the planned Liddell power station closure in 2022, but without a requirement to install technology to reduce toxic emissions.

“Bayswater power station emits more sulphur dioxide pollution than any single coal-fired power station in the United States and twice as much as the largest single emitter of sulphur dioxide pollution from a coal-fired power station,” EJA solicitor Bronya Lipski said in a submission to the NSW Government which has fast tracked the project as “critical infrastructure”.

The downtime required to install new turbines and increase the Muswellbrook station’s capacity by 100 megawatts through efficiency improvements was the ideal time to install best available technology to reduce sulphur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, the EJA said.

It estimates the technology could reduce the power station’s fine particle pollution emissions by up to 90 per cent. 

AGL is spending $200 million on the four-year upgrade as part of a suite of measures to increase power supply using a combination of gas-fired power and renewable energy, and provide “firming” options like a battery system and pumped hydro to overcome renewables intermittency issues.

Bayswater is AGL’s largest coal-fired power station and is currently capable of producing 2640 megawatts.

More than 40 Hunter groups and individuals have objected to the Bayswater upgrade without the air pollution reduction technology.

Future: AGL's two Muswellbrook power stations - Liddell in the foreground and Bayswater. Their twin futures are linked. Picture: Simone De Peak.

Future: AGL's two Muswellbrook power stations - Liddell in the foreground and Bayswater. Their twin futures are linked. Picture: Simone De Peak.

In 2015-16 Bayswater emitted 63,470 tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the Hunter atmosphere, more than any other power plant in Australia or the United States where stricter air pollution curbs apply.

Fine particle emissions from Bayswater jumped by 69 per cent in 2017, according to national data showing the Hunter’s biggest air polluters were releasing more toxic emissions than ever before.

“Air pollution kills 3000 people in Australia each year and coal-fired power stations are responsible for emitting millions of kilograms of toxic air pollution each year,” the EJA said.

Studies by the NSW Environment Protection Authority have shown air pollution from Hunter and Central Coast power stations travels hundreds of kilometres to Sydney.

Last week more than 30 Hunter doctors invited NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard and NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton to stay overnight in the Upper Hunter and experience first-hand the combined air pollution from open cut coal mines and Bayswater and Liddell power stations. Doctors for the Environment have previously argued a NSW user pays system for polluters is no disincentive.  

The EJA said federal and state governments had committed to a national standard of 7 micrograms per cubic metre of fine particle emissions by 2025 but to achieve the standard “the NSW Government must actively control major sources of fine particle pollution in the Hunter Valley”.

In reports to the EPA on how to reduce nitrous oxide emissions Liddell and Vales Point power stations have identified selective catalytic reduction as the most effective method. The best technology to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions is flue gas desulphurisation, the EJA said.

It has called on the NSW Government to require AGL to install both technologies as part of the Bayswater upgrade.

Sulphur dioxide is just one of a number of toxic emissions from coal-fired power stations, making breathing difficult and harming the respiratory system, and causing particular problems for the elderly, children and people with asthma.

This story Rush for Bayswater power leaves Hunter breathless first appeared on Newcastle Herald.