Owner calls time on Hazelwood plant and mine

Article by Staff Writer

HUNDREDS of workers will lose their jobs at Australia’s Hazelwood power plant and adjoining coal mine after its owners declared operations at the site in Latrobe Valley were no longer economically viable.

The 1600 MW brown coal-fired plant has been running for 50 years, but owner ENGIE says that must come to an end due to low energy prices and a surplus of electricity supply in Victoria State. The plant provides up to 25% of Victoria’s power needs.

“Over the past few years a range of options have been investigated for the business, including revamping existing infrastructure, repowering with gas-fired gas turbines or biomass or reducing the number of operating units,” said ENGIE in Australia CEO Alex Keisser.

“None of these options has proven to be economically viable and as a result, the extremely difficult decision has now been taken to close all eight generating units by 31 March next year.”

Of the 750 employed at the site, only 250 will be needed after the closure to help manage rehabilitation up to 2023, including turning the mine into a lake.

ENGIE is also looking to sell its Loy Yang B brown coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley and its Kwinana co-generation facility in Western Australia. The 1,000 MW Loy Yang B station provides up to 17% of Victoria’s power. The 122 MW Kwinana gas-fired plant supplies steam and electrical power directly to the BP Australia Kwinana oil refinery and electricity to the state-owned utility, Synergy.

ENGIE announced its decision Thursday, as Trish Kerin, director of the IChemE Safety Centre, met with Loy Yang B leadership team.

“It was a difficult day for people in the Latrobe Valley,” Kerin explained. “Power generation is the main industry in this region, and the closure of Hazelwood is a big impact on them.”

In response, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced a A$22m (US$16.8m) support package to help train and counsel the effected workers and their families. He added that the local authorities have been preparing for the closure and expect to announce measures to attract new investment to the region.

In 2014, the Hazelwood open cut coal mine was the scene of a devastating fire caused by bushfire embers that burned for 45 days, blanketing the surrounding towns in ash.

Article by Staff Writer

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