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Energy Project FAQs

Gas Storage FAQs

  • Q Are there health risks to the community such as air contamination, and what actions is AGL taking to reduce these risks?

  • A: Health risks to the community will be negligible.

    The design and construction of the facility will be in line with energy-efficient technology. There will be some gas emissions as part of standard operations created through the liquefaction process (i.e. the process to make liquefied natural gas). As is standard practice in gas facilities, the plant will have a flare to release gas build up from time to time.


  • Q Do you expect plume rise to occur from the proposal?

  • No. A small amount of gas will be burnt via the flare.

  • Q Has AGL taken into account sea level rises?

  • A: Yes. Flooding studies considered a rise in sea level. The site is not at risk of rising sea levels.

  • Q How are we storing the gas?

  • The Project includes an above ground insulated tank kept at atmospheric pressure, along with associated plant infrastructure. The natural gas is cooled to about minus 162°C and stored as a liquid known as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). When LNG is needed, it is warmed up and converted back into natural gas.

  • Q How big will the LNG storage tank be?

  • The tank height from the ground to the roof apex will be up to 56 metres.

  • Q How does the NGSF work?

  • During times of lower gas use when there is extra gas, natural gas is supplied to the NGSF from the existing gas network via the project's 5.5 kilometer pipeline from the existing gas network. The gas is purified and refrigerated (liquefaction) to -162°C, the point where methane condenses to a liquid form. It is then pumped into the 30,000 cubic meter insulated storage tank.
    When demand for gas becomes high, such as during the winter months when people use it to heat their homes, the stored LNG can be heated until it is a gas (vaporisation) and re-injected into the gas distribution network for distribution to Newcastle, Central Coast and Greater Hunter regions.


  • Q How long is the pipeline from Hexham to the gas storage facility?

  • The pipeline is approximately 5.5km long.

  • Q How many jobs will be created?

  • During construction of the GSF, up to 300 people will be employed. Once constructed, up to 15 permanent full-time employees will be required.

  • Q How much is AGL investing?

  • The development will result in an investment by AGL of about $310 million.

  • Q How will the community be kept informed?

  • AGL will keep the local community updated throughout the planning and construction phases to ensure residents and local businesses are fully informed. AGL will update this website as relevant information becomes available. We also have a Community Consultative Committee (CCC) in place. Alternatively, the community can contact members of the project team directly. Our contact information can be found below.

    Newcastle Gas Storage
    Locked Bag 1837 St Leonards NSW 2065
    Direct 1300 473 660
    Email GSF@agl.com.au

  • Q Is LNG hazardous?

  • LNG is natural gas which has been cooled down sufficiently to form a liquid at atmospheric pressure. LNG is not like LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) which has to be stored under pressure.

    As a liquid, the risk of LNG burning is extremely low. It is colourless, odourless and non-toxic. It does not mix with water and leaves no residue.

    The hazards associated with LNG are similar to those of natural gas except that it is much cooler and therefore forms a much smaller gas cloud for the same size release.

    If LNG did escape from its storage containment to the environment, it would form a pool and begin warming immediately and returning to its gaseous form. As the gas warms up, the vapours become lighter than air and rise into the atmosphere and dissipate.

    LNG and natural gas are mainly composed of methane gas. Methane vapour is only flammable if it is within the concentration range of 5-15% gas in air, otherwise it is non-flammable.


  • Q Is there a risk of contaminating the community's water supply?

  • A: Construction and ongoing operation of the gas facility is not considered to be a high risk to the shallow underlying groundwater used as raw water for Newcastle's drinking water supply. Most facilities will be above ground, and surface water and groundwater monitoring systems will be in place to ensure early detection of any impacts. In the highly unlikely event of any spill/leak, LNG will evaporate so there is no risk to groundwater from the stored gas.

    Several layers of protection measures are proposed to protect the groundwater against the risks of contamination, including:

    • controlling all stormwater runoff from construction sites
    • providing sedimentation basins for all surface water runoff from disturbed areas
    • separating clean water (water from undisturbed areas) from potentially impacted water from construction activities
    • building temporary and permanent infrastructure to capture any spills or leaks
    • collecting and storing waste water before transporting offsite for treatment or disposal
    • pumping stormwater from the site to the Port Stephens Council drainage system at Old Punt Road
    • ongoing water monitoring to ensure water quality is maintained.
  • Q Is there a risk of fire at the facility and therefore bush fires?

  • A: Any spill of flammable material will be contained within the site area. If there is a fire subsequent to a spill, then the fire will be allowed to burn - LNG will vaporise and burn itself out. AGL is building the gas storage facility on a 28 ha parcel of land within the larger 250 ha industrial site at Tomago. This land is subject to bushfire threat. The required buffer zone will be maintained around the gas plant, the processing plant and storage tank to minimise the bushfire risk. The facility has been designed to operate with low potential bush fire threat. As is the case for all major fires, people around the site will need to evacuate the area to prevent injury from heat radiation. The buffer to the boundary fence will prevent immediate injury from radiation.

  • Q What are the benefits of the Project?

  • There are a number of key project benefits at national, state and local levels. These include:

    • Supporting the NSW State Government initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emission targets
    • Reducing NSW's dependence on gas imported from interstate, providing a more secure and continuous supply
    • Creating flow-on economic benefits to the region during the construction, commissioning and operational phases, such as employment opportunities.
    • Providing greater security of gas supply, particularly during peak load periods
    • Providing infrastructure support for the growing gas supply industry in NSW
  • Q What are the risks associated with the Gas Storage Facility?

  • The Gas Storage Facility will process, handle and store substantial quantities of LNG. The facility will be designed to Australian and International standards to minimise the risk of an incident happening and provide mitigation measures in the event an incident does occur.

    More than 100 small and large scale LNG storage facilities are in operation in the United States and Europe. A similar facility to this Project was built in Dandenong, Victoria, in 1980 and has experienced no adverse incidents.

    The construction, commissioning and operation of the Project will be subject to Government approvals processes, including the Work Cover Safety Case process, minimising risk to workers and the community.

    The safety, efficiency and stability of the Project will be achieved through the use of high-integrity safety systems, regular preventative maintenance programs, detection and protective measures. Security measures will include security patrols, protective enclosures, lighting and monitoring equipment.

    The site and plant layout will ensure that any operational issues are contained within the site boundaries, including an appropriate buffer zone as required under legislation.


  • Q What happens to the Facility if there is a power failure?

  • The main power for the facility is being provided from AusGrid's high voltage (33kV) network at a point in the network where two independent power networks meet, thereby providing redundant power supply. Should both sources of power fail, the gas storage facility has an emergency diesel power generation system designed to maintain all safety and integrity systems operational in case of a complete power failure.

  • Q What is the current status of the Project?

  • AGL aims to be ready to deliver gas to market from the Project in 2015. To meet this target, construction began in early 2012.

  • Q What is the NGSF?

  • The NGSF will store liquefied natural gas (LNG) for supply to the greater Newcastle region. Once complete, the $310 million facility will include:

    • A gas plant site, including gas processing equipment and a storage tank
    • An access road and utility corridor
    • A natural gas receiving station, and
    • An LNG tanker loading facility
    • A 5.5 kilometre natural gas pipeline
    • Related infrastructure.

    Construction of the facility will take three years. It will be operational in mid-2015.

  • Q What makes up the Project?

  • The Project comprises three components:

    • A gas pipeline will join the gas plant to the Hexham receiving station
    • A gas plant including a refrigeration plant to liquefy natural gas, an LNG storage tank, and a vaporisation system to convert the stored LNG back to natural gas for delivery into the pipeline. This will include an access road and utility corridor to allow utilities access from Old Punt Road
    • Hexham receiving station to transfer the natural gas to and from the Jemena distribution network.
    • The Newcastle Gas Storage Facility will also be supplied with natural gas from the future gas production at AGL’s Gloucester Gas Project. AGL is currently applying for a modification to the Part 3A approval of the Gloucester Gas Project to relocate the pipeline end from Hexham to within AGL’s Newcastle Gas Storage Facility.
  • Q What will AGL do with discarded water during the operation of the facility?

  • AGL proposes to truck wastewater from the Project site to an appropriate treatment facility.

  • Q What will be the anticipated length of the horizontal directional drilling (HDD) beneath the Hunter River?

  • The HDD length is anticipated to be approximately 600 metres.

  • Q What will happen to the Earps gum trees?

  • Of the approximate 20 ha of vegetation to be cleared, up to 15 Earps gums will need to be removed. These gums were planted following sand mining activities between 1970s and the 1990s. AGL is working closely with the Hunter Botanic Gardens to develop an offset strategy that ensures longer term minimal impact can be achieved. One of these initiatives is to replant seeds of these gums.

  • Q What will happen to the stormwater?

  • A: Stormwater from the active plant areas of the site will be captured and stored in an onsite holding pond prior to water quality testing, and then pumped via a dedicated stormwater pipeline along the access road to the Port Stephens Council stormwater system at Old Punt Road.

  • Q What will happen to the surface water?

  • A: Surface water in potentially contaminated areas will be collected in sumps. The quality of water in the sumps will be checked for contamination. If contaminated, it will be pumped to trucks and removed from the site. If uncontaminated, it will be manually released to the holding pond and discharged to stormwater.

  • Q When will consultation about the Project begin?

  • AGL has consulted extensively with relevant State and local government agencies, as well as local residents, landowners and local businesses. AGL will continue to liaise with stakeholders and the local community throughout construction completion and operations.

  • Q Why do we need gas storage?

  • The Project will provide a reserve of natural gas which will play a critical role in ensuring the security of supply during periods of peak energy demand or during periods of supply disruption. It will also support the development of gas-fired power generation which can be used to back up renewable energy supplies such as wind power. This is consistent with the New South Wales Government's future energy planning needs. The Project will help prevent supply constraints, particularly on cold winter days, with its capacity to store the equivalent of about two weeks' gas for the greater Newcastle region.

  • Q Why is AGL building a gas storage facility at Tomago?

  • The Tomago industrial area is appropriately zoned for this type of development and is close to a major demand centre. The site is adjacent to the Tomago aluminium smelter, a significant industrial operation with high standards of safety consistent with those of AGL. The site is large enough to provide the buffer zone as required by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure.

  • Q Why is the facility not located closer to Old Punt Road?

  • This proposed site was offered to AGL by Tomago Aluminum Company, and is suitable both environmentally and operationally.

  • Q Why not reduce the height of the storage tanks and increase the number (e.g. have two tanks @25-30m high) to reduce the visual impact?

  • The facility will not be visible to the public as it is set back more than 1km from the closest public road. The closest neighbours, the Botanic Gardens, some 500 metres from the site will not be visible to the site because of the bushland buffer zone.

  • Q Why was the access road not co-located with the emergency road?

  • A: We have identified the pipeline corridor (the emergency road) as a secondary means of escape from the plant site, should there be an incident that prevents escape along the access road.

  • Q Will Aboriginal cultural heritage be impacted?

  • The Project is on the boundary of two Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALC), Awabakal LALC (south of the Hunter River) and Worimi LALC (north of the Hunter). The Hexham portion of the project is predominantly associated with the Awabakal clan subgroups, the Pambulong and the Ash Island Clan. There is potential for the Project related activities to disturb Aboriginal cultural heritage sites. Management procedures will be developed in consultation with the appropriate LALCs to ensure that in the event that any Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, features or artefacts are unearthed during construction, there will be a process to ensure they are protected.

  • Q Will the gas storage facility be noisy and dirty and cause more traffic?

  • A: Due to the distance of the primary project area (about 1km) from the main Tomago town, any associated visual, traffic and noise impacts should be minimal during construction. Ongoing plant operation will have little impact on the local community. The pipeline along Old Punt Road will be installed below ground so local impacts will be minimal.

    The anticipated road tanker traffic is three trucks per day and a transport hazard study will be undertaken to assess any risks associated with this.


  • Q Will the required buffer zone be contained within AGLs property boundary?

  • The buffer zone is within the property boundary.

  • Q Will vegetation and trees need to be removed?

  • Up to approximately 20 ha of vegetation will be removed within the primary Project area. An extensive range of environmental safeguards, mitigation measures and monitoring and management programs will be implemented to avoid or minimise impacts. Offset land will be provided and a strategy developed in consultation with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), and the Department of Planning and Infrastructure (DP&I). AGL will also closely consult with local stakeholders who have community expertise in restoration and habitat protection (including the Hunter Botanic Gardens at Tomago) to develop long term sustainable community partnership programs.

  • Q Will you be drilling for gas at the project site?

  • No. We are building a gas storage facility. It is not a coal seam gas (CSG) project. The only drilling being undertaken is for geotechnical and groundwater monitoring purposes.

Hydroelectricity FAQs

  • Q How much power is generated via hydroelectricity in Australia?

  • Australia has more than 100 operating hydroelectric power stations with total installed capacity of about 8000 megawatts (MW). These are located in the areas of highest rainfall and elevation and are mostly in the Eastern Australia. The largest schemes are located in the Snowy Mountains and Tasmania.
  • Q What is hydroelectricity?

  • Hydroelectricity is electrical energy generated when falling water from reservoirs or flowing water from rivers, streams or waterfalls (run of river) is channeled through water turbines. The pressure of the flowing water on the turbine blades causes the shaft to rotate and the rotating shaft drives an electrical generator which converts the motion of the shaft into electrical energy. 
    Most commonly, water is dammed and the flow of water out of the dam to drive the turbines is controlled by the opening or closing of sluices, gates or pipes. This is commonly called penstock.

Wind Farm FAQs

  • Q Do wind turbines emit low frequency noise?

  • Modern wind turbines can generate noise across the frequency range of human hearing.  As with most sounds, some of this energy occurs below the level of human hearing.  Human hearing ability ranges from 20Hz to 20,000Hz, with 1dB being the smallest change in noise that humans can detect.  

    Low frequency noise refers to noise in the range of 10 to 200 Hertz (Hz) and infrasound occurs in the range of 20 Hz down to 0.001 Hz – below what the human ear can pick up.

    AGL undertakes regular noise monitoring to ensure that its wind farms are compliant with the noise limits prescribed in the respective wind farm planning permits. 

  • Q Does low frequency noise from wind turbines make people sick?

  • No. There is currently no scientific data to suggest that the levels of low frequency noise emitted by wind turbines make humans sick. Research to date has not shown any negative health effects at the noise levels produced by operational wind turbines.  

    Advances in technology mean that noise from wind turbines is minimal. Research conducted on modern wind turbines has shown that the levels of low frequency noise and infrasound are below accepted thresholds (British Wind Energy Association 2005).  



  • Q How do wind turbines work?

  • A wind turbine generator consists of a concrete foundation, a fixed support tower, a nacelle (generator and gearbox assembly) and a three-blade rotor assembly. Wind turbines are electronically controlled with on-board computers that automatically start, stop and monitor each turbine. The turbines start generating electricity in a light breeze (14 km per hour), and reach full production in steady winds (around 50 km per hour). To avoid damage in gale force winds (90 km per hour), the wind turbines automatically feather their blades into the wind for minimum resistance and effectively shut down. Allowing for the times when there is too little or too much wind , the wind turbines each generate around 7,500 MWh of electricity each year.

    When the rotor assembly turns in the wind, it rotates a shaft that is connected to a large gearbox, which in turn drives an electrical generator. The generator converts rotational energy into electrical energy at 690 volts AC. The blade angle of the rotor is automatically and continuously adjusted, via on-board computer control, to optimise rotation speed and therefore electricity generation for any given wind condition. The generated power is fed via flexible cables to a kiosk transformer at the base of each tower, which steps up the voltage to 33,000 Volts. A combination of ridge-top buried cables, then overhead power lines, transfers the generated power to a switchroom and substation in the valley below. From there the voltage is stepped up again via a 105 MVA transformer to a higher voltage suitable for long distance transmission, typically 275,000 volts and fed into the grid via a high voltage transmission infrastructure.

  • Q What about Infrasound?

  • Infrasound is generated by a range of natural sources, including waves on a beach and against the coastline, waterfalls and wind. It is also generated by a wide range of man-made sources such as industrial processes, vehicles, air conditioning and ventilation systems and wind farms.
    Studies have confirmed that infrasound from wind farms is less than that caused through naturally occurring means.
    The studies conclude that there are no plausible links to adverse health from infrasound emanating from wind turbines.


  • Q What are the approval processes currently for wind farms in Australia?

  • There is a considerable approval process for every wind farm development which includes rigorous noise
    assessment. Compliance is required with relevant state EPA guidelines and regulation.  Many development permit conditions also reference the requirements of either:
    • New Zealand Standard NZ 6808:1998 Acoustic – The Assessment and Measurement of Sound from
    Wind Turbine Generators; or
    • Environmental Noise Guidelines: Wind Farms (SA EPA 2003)
    Under the SA EPA guidelines, background noise is measured before the wind turbines are installed for two
    weeks at 10 minute intervals. Ongoing monitoring of noise levels is undertaken after construction
    throughout the life of the wind farm.
    The Commonwealth and State Governments of Australia, through the Environment Protection and
    Heritage Council (EPHC), are currently developing national guidelines for wind farm developments. These
    guidelines will address the management of noise from wind farms.  


  • Q What rights do communities and residents have?

  • Communities near wind turbines have the full range of rights available to them under Australian law.  
    Residents should discuss any concerns that they have about noise with the wind farm project developer.  
    Wind energy developers acknowledge local communities are very important and take all community
    concerns very seriously.
    If necessary, individuals can also talk to their state Environment Protection Authority about their concerns.


  • Q What will happen when the wind farm reaches the end of its life?

  • Wind Farm's are expected to have a base life of approximately 25 years.
    After this time, the site will be reviewed and assessed to determine whether the wind farm may be upgraded with the latest turbine technology or otherwise decommissioned through a phased approach - dismantling the above ground equipment and then removing it from the site, and rehabilitating the site.
    When a wind farm is decommissioned, the site can be returned to essentially the same state as it was before the wind farm was built.


  • Q Will erosion be caused by constructing or operating the wind farm?

  • Modern construction techniques and strict environmental guidelines are designed to protect the environment and to minimise the likelihood of erosion. Construction progress will be monitored and audited by AGL and the relevant authorities at various stages and Environmental Management Plans are required to be approved before construction commences.

  • Q Can my TV and radio reception be negatively impacted?

  • Wind Turbines can interfere with TV and radio reception, and because of this the Planning Permit requires that a pre and post construction survey is conducted. Measurements of reception quality at properties around the wind farm (prior to construction commencing) has been conducted including at neighbouring properties where approval has been granted. Following completion of construction, we will conduct the same measurements, and if signal deterioration is observed and there is an impact to reception as a result of the wind farm, then AGL must undertake measures to make good.

  • Q This area has a history of issues relating to salinity. Will salinity be impacted by constructing or operating the wind farm?

  • Throughout the permitting process, many representations have been made regarding concerns that construction and operation of the wind farm will increase current salinity levels.
    Since purchasing the development rights to this project, AGL has commissioned an additional assessment and report regarding the potential impact by the wind farm to the existing salinity issues. The report confirms that neither construction nor operation of the wind farm will impact or accelerate salinity.
    As a requirement of the Planning Permit, AGL is required to prepare a Salinity Management Program that identifies locations and types of trees that landowners may plant to address salinity issues.
    Further, AGL are contributing $10,000 per annum to a salinity management program as required by the planning permit. This contribution is CP Indexed and will run for the duration of the wind farm project (construction and operation).


  • Q Will the turbines frighten sheep and other animals?

  • Wind turbines do not have any noticeable impact on livestock. Animals such as cattle and sheep habitually graze around the wind turbines undisturbed. In fact on hot summer days you will regularly see cattle and sheep lining up in the shade of the turbine towers.

  • Q Will the Wind Farm impact on areas of Cultural Significance?

  • The general area around Glenthompson and beyond does contain areas of cultural significance. This includes archaeological sites associated with Indigenous Australians plus areas of European significance - in particular the Major Mitchell Trail.
    Substantial investigation has taken place and detailed mapping prepared identifying areas of cultural significance. The wind farm design has taken account of this information and infrastructure associated with the wind farm will not impact these areas.
    As an added insurance, agreements and processes are in place to ensure that if any archaeological artefacts are discovered during construction, that this is reported immediately to registered and relevant groups so that appropriate investigations and recommendation may be made.


  • Q Will the wind turbines impact birds and other wildlife?

  • While wind turbines, like many tall man-made structures, present a collision risk to birds and bats, a report (Wind Energy -The Myths and the Facts- Sustainability Victoria 2006) advises that at time of writing, no rare, threatened or endangered species have been killed as a result of wind turbines in Victoria. During the planning process surveys of land based fauna have also been conducted.
    From these surveys, specific considerations have been given to habitat for the 'Striped Legless Lizard' and Brolgas and Bats as these have been identified as the fauna most likely to be impacted by wind farms.
    As a result, wind turbines and other infrastructure will not be placed in areas nominated as areas where the 'Striped Legless Lizard' has been sighted through formal recognised surveys that have been considered in the Planning Permit and AGL will implement a Bat and Avifauna Management Plan also as required by the Planning Permit.


Thermal Energy FAQs

  • Q How is electricity generated from Loy Yang

  • AGL Loy Yang uses steam to make electricity at its Loy Yang A power station. The power station uses brown coal, supplied exclusively by the adjacent open cut mine also owned and operated by AGL, as the fuel source to generate electricity.

    Coal is transported by conveyor belt to an 80,000 tonne capacity bunker and then directly by conveyor belt from the bunker to both AGL Loy Yang A and the neighbouring Loy Yang B power station, which is separately owned.

    Coal-fired electricity is generated by burning coal to boil water and produce high-pressure jets of steam. This high-pressure steam is used to turn turbine blades that are connected to a generator.

    The generator produces electricity, which is then supplied to customers who deliver it to end users via a transmission network across Victoria.

    LoyYang_how_elect_generated


  • Q How much lower are actual emissions than Approved Method?

  • The predicted levels of emissions are very conservative and worst case. The following is an example of how the predicted level of NOx emissions are reduced by taking slightly more realistic assumptions: The use of a 99.9th percentile statistic - level exceeded once in every 1000 hours (assuming constant operation), or approximately 1 hour per year for a plant that operates at less than 15% operating duty). The use of a NOx ratio of 35%. NOx ratios (when applied) typically range between 20% and 35%. From gas-fired combustion sources, a NOx ratio of 10% will be present in the stack, and will increase in the atmosphere, as the NOx is oxidised by ozone. The use of a margin between typical operation and the licence limit. A manufacturer's guarantee ensures that under normal operation, the plant will operate within the licence limit. This guarantee includes headroom for fluctuations, hence on average emissions will be below the limit. The 60% (shaded below) is based on an assumed average (not maximum) operation at 15ppm NOx.

  • Q What are the concentrations of volatile organic compounds?

  • The following are the worst case modelled emissions based a 1500MW power station and using the conservative assumptions required by the OEH approved methods. The OEH do not require modelling of volatile organic compounds (also known as Hazardous Air Pollutants [HAPs]) as natural gas generation is known to produce then is significant quantities, but AGL have undertaken further modelling to show worst case disbursement of these compounds.

  • Q What does air emissions modeling mean and what comes out of the stack?

  • The hourly emissions modeling are are based on the F Class turbines and uses a combination of start-up and operating modes to give worst case results.

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