Meters monitoring flares not fully functional: report

Original Source: http://www.gladstoneobserver.com.au/news/meters-monitoring-flares-not-fully-functional-repo/2740500/

Meters monitoring flares not fully functional: report

Helen Spelitis | 14th Aug 2015 6:26 AM

BLACK SMOKE: An RTI document obtained by GREAN shows equipment used to monitor contents of flare smoke and gas flow was not fully operational between December 2014 and April this year.

FLARE flow meters at the QCLNG plant on Curtis Island, Gladstone had “potential defects” and couldn’t be relied on for five months up to April this year, an official information request reveals.

The problems with the flare flow meters coincide with the most significant visible flaring activity of recent times.

The monitoring meters check for health and environment impacts, as well as the plant’s productivity.

>> Letter: QGC says flare emissions well within guidelines

While government officials have in the past said they do not have any specific health concerns in relation to flare emissions, the fault has alarmed Gladstone green groups.

Gladstone Conservation Council president Jan Arens, who has a background in engineering and industry, said without the flow meters there was no way of being sure what chemicals were being released into the atmosphere.

“It feels as though concerns raised by the community have simply been pushed aside,” Mr Arens said.

“If they’ve got nothing to hide, then produce the science. Tell us exactly what is in the black smoke.”

On April 9 the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection ordered QGC to conduct an evaluation into flare emissions.

The company’s fact sheet says the emissions are mostly carbon dioxide.

But the report, within the documents obtained under Right to Information, states the key pollutants at the QCLNG plants include methane, ethylene, acetylene, propane and propylene.

Mr Arens has repeatedly asked QGC to provide scientific data of black smoke samples including details on sampling, test methods and results.

So far his request has been denied.

The Environment Department confirmed it was aware the flow meters weren’t working as designed.

However, the meters aren’t a requirement under the Environmental Authority. Instead, the department relies on seven ambient air monitors to monitor air quality.

That is exactly the issue Gladstone Region Environmental Advisory Network has raised this week when it formally asked Gladstone Regional Council to approach State Government.

It says those air monitors and not sufficient.

The council is expected to make a decision during their meeting next Tuesday.