Truck flows increase with gas storage plan

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THE main road leading from Western Port to Melbourne was closed to all traffic on Thursday night following a fatal crash between a car and a loaded liquid gas tanker at Tyabb.

A major explosion was averted by emergency crews and gas was still being removed from the tanker early Friday afternoon.

Authorities also feared the blaze – attributed to the tanker’s fuel tanks – had damaged the surface of Hastings-Dandenong Rd.

The crash comes at a time when both state and federal governments are considering plans that could greatly increase the number of trucks carrying volatile cargoes through towns in the Western Port area.

Gas supplier AGL has proposed a floating terminal to store LNG in Western Port while Kawasaki Heavy Industries wants to liquefy hydrogen gas at Hastings.

The talks between the companies and governments come in the wake of a report by Infrastructure Victoria which recommends against building a container port at Hastings.

The report states that a new container port is not needed until 2055 and that Bay West, north of Geelong in Port Phillip, would make more sense based on environmental and economic grounds.

The state government has previously said it wants to increasingly use Hastings as a “bulk” port, and the latest plans for LNG and liquid hydrogen could meet those criteria.

Hastings MP Neale Burgess has accused the state government of already signing a secret deal with Kawasaki that could lead to “long coal trains or a coal slurry pipe bringing huge amounts of coal to Hastings, building of a huge coal gasification plant at Hastings and the produced hydrogen being shipped through Western Port”.

The state government last week confirmed to The News it is negotiating with energy supplier AGL about using Western Port for a floating liquid natural gas terminal.

The government says it can be cheaper to buy LNG from overseas even though Australia is the world’s second largest gas producer.

Having gas stored on a floating terminal in Western Port would help guarantee supplies for the state.

AGL has indicated it wants to bring LNG ashore in South Australia, Victoria or New South Wales – and Western Port is seen as the best place in Victoria.

“AGL propose to make a decision in mid-2017, with the Andrews Labor government [is] eager to work with AGL and the Commonwealth as this process continues,” David McNamara, senior media adviser to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, said.

“The current Victorian proposal would bring LNG in through the Port of Hastings.

“AGL has discussed their proposal with the Victorian government. Discussion has included statutory approval requirements.”

Mr McNamara said the state and federal governments had also been “working with Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) on an engineering study into the possible production of hydrogen from Victorian brown coal”.

“This project is in the very early stages and the Victorian government is keen to explore all serious investments that have the potential to create jobs in the valley.”

It is understood Kawasaki would use the existing BlueScope wharf to export liquid hydrogen initially made at a pilot plant in Hastings.

The hydrogen would be extracted from brown coal trucked into Hastings from the Latrobe Valley, where the state is keen to encourage new industries following the loss of jobs from the closure of the Hazelwood power station.

Kawasaki says it has been negotiating with state and federal governments for six years and has never been involved in plans to process coal at Western Port.

See ‘Fireball’ crash scene

First published in the Western Port News – 27 June 2017

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