QER oil shale site works to put mistakes of others behind it

Resources Minister Andrew Cripps, QER operations supervisor Ray Pascoe and Environment Minister Andrew Powell at the QER facility in Yarwun, Gladstone.
Resources Minister Andrew Cripps, QER operations supervisor Ray Pascoe and Environment Minister Andrew Powell at the QER facility in Yarwun, Gladstone. David Sparkes

ENERGY company QER's oil shale project at Yarwun is built on a site which is infamous in the Gladstone region.

Another company attempted a shale oil project on the site a decade ago. It failed miserably, with residents complaining about foul air and other environmental problems.

That legacy of failure does not belong to QER, but the company is well aware it needs to reverse community concerns before going ahead with commercial production.

Chances of commercial production of oil shale in Gladstone increased dramatically on Wednesday when a production ban was lifted.

An announcement by the Queensland Government, ending a moratorium on commercial production of oil shale, is no guarantee of a major project going ahead, but it is a big step forward.

QER has been developing a trial project at Yarwun for a few years.

The Technology Demonstration Plant was commissioned in 2011 and has been producing small amounts of shale oil.

It uses a completely different method to its failed predecessor, and was built to test and prove the technology over a number of years.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell said the Environment Department had received about 1000 complaints about the old facility, largely relating to smell.

By contrast, the present facility, which has been processing shale for more than a year, has been the subject of no complaints.

Despite its strong track record so far, QER is acutely aware that community perceptions about oil shale were dented by the project's predecessor.

QER chief executive Pearce Bowman said Wednesday's announcement was a step forward for the facility, but commercial production was still years away.

"The operation has passed with flying colours (meeting environmental standards)," Mr Bowman said.

"We have been producing oil for more than a year, enabling the local community and others to see the technology in action."

Topics:  gladstone mining resources shale

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