Beginning of the end of coal as Hazelwood smokestacks demolished | RenewEconomy

Beginning of the end of coal as Hazelwood smokestacks demolished

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Hazelwood’s eight smokestacks brought down by controlled explosions, as decommissioning of one of world’s dirtiest coal plants reaches new milestone.

Image: Still from Engie livestream video
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The chimneys of one of Australia’s oldest and most pollutive coal-fired power stations have been demolished in dramatic fashion through control explosion, as the decommissioning of the Hazelwood power station reaches a new milestone.

The eight smokestacks from the Hazelwood Power station were brought down on Monday, as part of the wider decommissioning and dismantling of what was one of Australia’s most polluting power stations, and one of the dirtiest in the world.

The steel reinforced smokestacks, having stood at 137 metres tall, had been a feature of the Morwell landscape for more than five decades.

“We know the Hazelwood chimneys have long been a significant part of the Latrobe Valley skyline and a symbol of the contribution Hazelwood has made to the local and state economy over a long period of time,” Engie’s demolition project manager Tom McDowall said.

“The demolition is not a celebration but a task that must be undertaken for health and safety reasons and for the Hazelwood site to become safe, sustainable and stable for the long term benefit of the community.”

Hazelwood power station, reliant on brown coal for fuel, had long been one of Australia’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and had the highest emissions intensity amongst all Australian large-scale, baseload, power stations at the time of its closure.

Prior to its closure, the Hazelwood power station had been responsible for around one-seventh of Victoria’s total greenhouse gas emissions alone, amounting to around 3 per cent of Australia’s total emissions. Hazelwood had consistently been ranked as one of the world’s most emissions intensive power stations, producing around 1.6 tonnes of CO2-e per megawatt-hour of electricity generation.

As the chimneys were lined with asbestos, all of the remaining material will be treated as hazardous and will be transported and stored in a dedicated asbestos containment area using a repurposed ash pond nearby to the Hazelwood power station site.

The Hazelwood power station was commissioned in 1964 by the Victorian government as part of efforts to exploit brown coal reserves in the Latrobe Valley, and to build the state’s power station capacity, and to power the state’s fleet of aluminium smelters.

The Hazelwood power station was privatised in the 1990s and ultimately came under the control of French multinational Engie (previously GDF Suez), before the company decided to close the power station in 2017, citing the company’s wider shift away from coal generation and was likely accelerated by unsustainable maintenance costs for the 53-year-old power station.

Images via TRFM

Engie received criticism for the short notice of the power station’s closure, announced less than six months ahead of time, providing a minimal warning for impacted employees and the surrounding community of Morwell.

The Victorian government was forced to establish a $266 million transition package to support impacted workers and Morwell businesses to adjust to life without the economic contributions of the power station.

In 2018, Victorian government declined to include the Hazelwood power station on its heritage register, concluding that it did not represent a unique part of Victoria’s history, nor of the Morwell region, mandating that the power station must be dismantled.

“Hazelwood Power Station’s aesthetic qualities had not received critical recognition within a relevant art, design, architectural or related discipline as an outstanding example within Victoria,” the Victorian government said at the time.

Engie estimated that the total cost of the remediation of the Hazelwood site would approach $750 million, requiring the rehabilitation of the Morwell mine, as well as the removal of the power station infrastructure, estimated to cost $300 million alone.

The operator’s of the Hazelwood Power Station were fined almost $2 million last week failures to manage risks to the power station brown coal mine, which caught fire and burned for more than six weeks in 2014.

Thousands of Morwell residents were impacted by the smoke and pollution caused by the Morwell mine fire, with an inquiry including the fire more than likely contributed to early deaths in the region.

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