The opening of Origin Energy’s Darling Downs power station again highlights the emergence of Queensland’s Surat Basin as an important energy centre for Australia.
The billion dollar, 630 MW combined-cycle plant, fuelled by coal seam gas, joins the largest single coal-fired unit in the country (CS Energy’s 750 MW Kogan Creek plant), InterGen’s 850MW Millmerra coal burner built in 2002 and ERM Power’s gas-fired Braemar set of plants, built and to be built, as only some of the energy developments in the Darling Downs area in what has been described as a modern-day gold rush.
The Surat Basin overall is estimated to hold some four billion tonnes of coal, minable to 80 metres, and about 8,500 billion cubic metres of gas.
Increasingly, coal seam gas developments in the area are becoming the focus for environmental movement attention and this is fuelled by the tensions that arise when the resource development industries move in to a well-established farming region, albeit one that less than a decade ago was plagued by drought and decline of rural communities.
More broadly, the opening of the Darling Downs power station underlines why the gas sector sees itself as a big winner in the next 10-15 years of electricity generation development in Australia. There are more than 17,000 MW of gas-fired projects under consideration for development in New South Wales and Queensland alone.