Poisonous plume warning among dramas at Linc site

3rd March 2018 6:12 AM
Linc Energy in operation. Linc Energy in operation. Alasdair Young

A "CLUMSY” retreat and Uzbek advisers were blamed for failures at the contentious Linc Energy site.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures,” a scientist said, as concerns about a "contaminant plume” emerged at Chinchilla.

Linc, in liquidation, is accused of causing serious environmental damage at its underground coal gasification (UCG) site.

The firm is not present to defend charges, but not guilty pleas have been entered.

On Thursday, Brisbane District Court heard about Linc's Generator 3 problems.

Former Linc gas operator Ray Cowie said a "plug in the hole” had formed.

In early 2009, the plug was composed of tars and solvents, by-products of syngas generation.

The court heard Linc needed to inject pressure in the generator and bring gas content up.

Possible solutions included adding "wildcat brew” or tar solvent slug.

Hydrogeologist Dr Gary Love emailed Mr Cowie in January 2009, warning of risks to the groundwater system.

Dr Love said a "very large contaminant plume” might move east and up into the overburden.

But Dr Love said "risks to the business” were high if Generator 3 failed "so desperate times call for desperate measures”.

Mr Cowie said he, Dr Love and others met with Linc chief executive Peter Bond in Brisbane.

Mr Cowie said they discussed Generator 3, outlining risks involved.

One solution was grouting, to shore up fractured structures above the coal seam so "the roof basically doesn't fall in”, Mr Cowie added.

The gas operator added "wildcat brew” to Generator 3 while it operated.

Jurors earlier heard that in April 2009, Dr Love told company bosses "risks to groundwater” meant Generator 3 must be decommissioned.

In July 2009, the UCG team presented a report to the Linc board.

The team said failures in early operations known as G2 and G3 were due to issues including "reliance on Uzbek consultants”.

The report said G2 was abandoned in a "clumsy” way, with water pumped back into wells in an attempt to extinguish gasification.

Meanwhile, already permeable coals were made even more permeable through fraccing, Mr Cowie added in a report later that year.

The trial continues. -NewsRegional