FLASHBACK: Linc Energy’s pilot UCG plant near Chinchilla during its trial operation
(Photo: Linc Energy)

March 16, 2015

ABC News is reporting that workers at Linc Energy’s pilot Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) trial site at Chinchilla may have been exposed to dangerous gases before the plant was closed down.

The employees allegedly presented with symptoms “consistent with exposure to the known chemical constituents of syngas”, according to a medical report sighted by the ABC.

Syngas is the product of the UCG process, produced by burning coal deep underground.

In April last year, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection charged Linc Energy Limited with causing serious environmental harm in relation to its Chinchilla plant.

Then-Environment Minister Andrew Powell said the charges followed a nine-month investigation.

“While the harm allegedly caused to the environment is considered serious, the information available to the department suggests there is no immediate risk to neighbouring landholder water bores,” Mr Powell said at the time.

In September 2013, Cougar Energy – now known as Moreton Resources – was fined $75,000 after pleading guilty in the Brisbane Magistrates Court to three charges linked to its failed UCG pilot project near Coolabunia. Chief Magistrate Tim Carmody also ordered that the company pay $40,000 in costs. No conviction was recorded.

The charges alleged Cougar breached the conditions of its environmental authority by failing to notify authorities for three weeks after traces of benzene were detected in water samples near the UCG site.

Both UCG technology pilot trials in Queensland have now been decommissioned.

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