Solar trumps CSG at NSW glasshouse

COAL seam gas has lost another battle in New South Wales, with the announcement that Australia's biggest glasshouse development has shifted its energy requirements towards solar power.
Solar trumps CSG at NSW glasshouse Solar trumps CSG at NSW glasshouse Solar trumps CSG at NSW glasshouse Solar trumps CSG at NSW glasshouse Solar trumps CSG at NSW glasshouse

Haydn Black

Reporter

The glasshouse project, in the Hunter Valley, originally to be developed by Maria's Farm Veggies, will produce 15,000 tonnes of tomatoes, cucumbers and capsicums every year, 14 times more per square metre than is possible in an open field.

It was originally proposed in 2012 to use CSG from wells Dart Energy would drill at Fullerton Cove on the NSW coast.

Dart believed in the project so much that its purchased a 20% stake in MFV, with the balance of the multi-million dollar development owned by Netherlands-based Cornelius Disselkoen.

But anti-CSG activists raised a stink, Dart's fortunes were further sapped by its international investments, and it because clear that CSG just wasn't going to work politically in NSW.

Dart said CSG made sense, because the produced water could be cleaned up and used to water the crops, while any carbon dioxide produced could be used to help fertilise the soil and promote plant growth.

The project would require an initial one petajoule of gas over a decade, priced at $7.50 per gigajoule that was indexed to inflation, with growth to 6PJ if the project expanded beyond the initial 16.4ha glasshouse to include an eight megawatt combined heat and power plant.

It would also help prove the viability of CSG and its ability to co-exist with communities.

The project will instead source its water from rainfall and its energy from rooftop solar panels.

Dart, which is now owned by the UK-based petrochemical giant iGas, sold many of its Australian licences to Lawndale, a company associated with former director Andrew Purcell, who in turn sold PEL 458, PEL 445 and PEL 456 to AJ Lucas earlier this year.

The pilot well in PEL 458 was officially plugged and abandoned earlier this year after it became clear an approved pilot project, proposed in 2011, was not going ahead.

A 2km exclusion zone around Fullerton Cove means CSG is now unlikely to be developed in the area, despite promising work undertaken by Dart and its predecessor Apollo Gas over the past decade.

AJ Lucas is no stranger to controversy, given its involvement in fraccing in the UK.

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