We’re committed to managing our operations at Eraring in an environmentally responsible way and continually improving our performance and systems.
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Water use and monitoring
Water forms an integral part of Eraring’s generating system and our environment team performs a comprehensive water and groundwater monitoring and assessment program across the site and in Lake Macquarie.
Approximately 5 million litres of water are used each day to create steam to drive the generation turbines. Of this, 3 million litres come from a microfiltration and reverse osmosis system we installed at the nearby Dora Creek sewerage plant.
To cool the steam, up to 11 billion litres of salt water a day are drawn from Lake Macquarie along a 4 km inlet canal. More than 99.9% of this water is then released back into the lake via a 2 km underground tunnel. Construction of an 800 megalitre attemperation reservoir in 2010 has helped us manage the temperature of this cooling water re-entering Lake Macquarie, limiting the impacts on important seagrasses.
Origin has invested over $6 million since 2013 on civil projects to reduce the risk of stormwater contamination. These works have included installation of stormwater valves linked to contaminant detection alarms, additional pumps and increasing pond storage capacity.
Origin was the first and only NSW coal generator to install low oxides of nitrogen (NOx) burners and these have helped to significantly reduce NOx emissions (by 40% per MWh).
In addition to low NOx burning technology, Eraring has fabric filters installed that filter out ~99.99% of particulate matter emissions.
Origin undertakes an extensive continuous and periodic air emissions monitoring program at Eraring, going beyond regulatory requirements.
The data calculations are independently verified and reported directly to the NSW Environmental Protection Authority.
Eraring’s emission data shows that the power station Eraring operates well below its strict licence limits and has never recorded an air emission licence limit exceedance.
The main by-product from burning coal at Eraring is fly ash. The fly ash we produce has numerous applications across the industrial and construction sectors and is supplied on-site to multiple customers including Fly Ash Australia, Boral Recycling and other industry leading businesses for a range of end uses.
One of these end uses is as a substitute product for Portland cement when making concrete. When fly ash is used in this manner it contributes to reducing carbon emissions. Up to 300,000 tonnes of Eraring’s fly ash is used for this purpose every year, leading to an indirect reduction of carbon emissions of approximately 300 kiloton of CO2 equivalent.
In 2020, Origin implemented new arrangements to increase Eraring’s ash reuse rate to 39%, up from 35% in the prior year. We have other ash recycling initiatives at various stages of development, including a recent partnership agreement with an industry leading ground remediation and fly ash supplier. This partnership will see a large classifier installed at Eraring by the end of 2020 that will reprocess fly ash into a grade suitable for concrete and ground remediation applications.
Origin will continue to explore new markets and technologies in our efforts to further increase ash recycling levels.
Origin has introduced several measures that will help to limit the risk of dust emissions from the Eraring ash dam. We’ve already capped and revegetated over 80 hectares and have deployed a network of irrigation sprinklers which are linked to wind speed monitoring sensors to help further reduce the risk of dust emissions during extreme weather events.
Biodiversity and rehabilitation
With Eraring covering 1,100 hectares, we understand the importance of protecting the surrounding environment and local wildlife.
In 2016, Origin worked with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to safely remove and relocate many tons of fish from the inlet canal during a major station outage. We continue to work with the DPI on a research program to track the movements of fish released following these works.
On average, 1-2 green turtles are removed from our canal system which are released locally if in good health. We also work with Taronga Zoo to rehabilitate green turtles that are sometimes found in the Eraring canal system sick or injured due to boat strikes or floatation issues following the ingestion of plastics.
The onsite nursery is playing an important role in supporting rehabilitation at the site. It grows plants from seed harvested locally and we expect to propagate and plant over 2,000 seedlings each year.
The nursery also provides training opportunities for Indigenous employees. We currently have five local Indigenous employees at the nursery, including three trainees who are studying for their Certificate III in Indigenous Land Management. The team use traditional Indigenous land management practices and techniques to grow the seedlings.