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Sanity prevails as carbon capture projects banned in Great Artesian Basin

One of the world’s largest underground freshwater reservoirs will be protected from carbon capture projects under proposed laws by the Queensland government.

May 31, 2024, updated May 31, 2024
Queensland Premier Steven Miles (centre) speaks to the media during a press conference at Swanbank Power Station in Brisbane, Monday, February 19, 2024.  (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING

Queensland Premier Steven Miles (centre) speaks to the media during a press conference at Swanbank Power Station in Brisbane, Monday, February 19, 2024. (AAP Image/Darren England) NO ARCHIVING

Premier Steven Miles will ban carbon capture and storage in the Great Artesian Basin, that holds an estimated 65 million gigalitres of water and is a water source for 180,000 inland people.

The ban on greenhouse gas storage activities will also extend to enhanced oil or petroleum recovery that use a greenhouse gas stream.

“I think the Great Artesian Basin’s unique environmental, agricultural, economic and cultural significance is worth protecting,” the premier said on Friday.

“It’s why I will be legislating to prohibit carbon capture and storage projects in the Great Artesian Basin here in Queensland.”

The government knocked back a controversial plan to inject tonnes of wastewater into the basin on May 24 under a proposal by mining giant Glencore.

Glencore had planned to capture carbon dioxide from a coal-fired power station, liquefy it and store it 2.3km underground and pump more than 300,000 tonnes of wastewater into an aquifer under a three-year trial.

Glencore argued no damage would have been caused by injecting the waste product into the aquifer, a body of rock that holds groundwater.

That was rejected by the state’s environment department on the basis it would cause “irreversible” change to groundwater quality and environmental values.

Glencore called the decision disappointing and a missed opportunity for the state, saying it sends mixed messages to industry stakeholders looking to invest in low emission technologies like carbon capture storage.

Mr Miles said the laws will clarify activities involving greenhouse gas storage or the injection of a greenhouse gas stream into the basin are not permissible.

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However, other carbon capture activities could continue elsewhere in Queensland subject to rigorous assessment and approval processes.

“We will continue to review the safety aspects of greenhouse gas storage in the state to support future generations of Queenslanders and to ensure the Queensland’s great natural environment is preserved,” the premier said.

Katter’s Australian Party leader Robbie Katter hailed the decision to protect Australia’s inland water source, saying lobbying from the community and crossbench demonstrated that “David can indeed defeat Goliath”.

“Common sense and logic have prevailed and in one of the very rare occasions this parliament, the KAP will be strongly in favour of the government’s legislation to protect the Great Artesian Basin,” he said.

The basin intersects four Australian states and territories, with about 70 per cent of its area sitting beneath Queensland.

It spans almost 1.7 million square kilometres, more than one-fifth of the Australian continent.

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