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Byron Shire
July 7, 2022

Byron Council’s new bioenergy gas electricity plant

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Not sure if it will be on full moon, but to be built snuggled up between Sunrise and the Tyagarah Nature Reserve, just at the back of Habitat, the burning gas flare from Council’s proposed new gas-fired electricity plant will be flamed off about once a month.

Not sure if the emissions from the flame-venting chimney are the same as given for the plant’s other 13.75m high emissions chimney, but the plant’s emissions are listed as nitrogen oxide (acid rain, petrochemical smog, air oxidises to greenhouse gas nitrous oxide), carbon monoxide (air reacts to form greenhouse gas carbon dioxide), formaldehyde (hazardous air pollutant), sulfur oxide (acid rain, particulate pollution), ammonia (acid deposits on soil, vegetation and species, air particulate)…

The gas-fired electricity plant, (called a biogas generator) will be burning methane 24/7, 365 days a year (virtually the same methane gas fuel as all gas fired electricity plants). It will be taking agricultural waste as well as Council’s green waste and sewerage sludge, and using them to ferment the methane that it will burn to run the electricity generator.

The plant developers, Byron Council, say the new pollution levels will all be within legal limits. And the 17 May 2022 Planning Panel Consent stipulates monitoring of the local and migratory birds, and the wildlife, (including critically endangered), that presently use and live on the site’s award-winning Integrated Water Management sewerage farm and constructed wetlands. The pollution has been assessed at 50 and 100 metres, but when the slightest breeze brings you the sounds of the surf…

Both the financial and greenhouse gas accounting to support this proposal do not appear to be coherent. In fact, Byron Council doesn’t appear coherent – they just swapped electricity suppliers to a windfarm supplier from Powershop; and Powershop was bought by petrol and gas producer Shell.

You can’t create net zero emissions from a gas-fired electricity plant. You can create net zero emissions by managing green waste as compost.

The councillors will be the final arbiters on whether this proposal goes ahead or not. This proposal was developed by the last Council. There are a bunch of new councillors. I’d email all councillors and ask for a re-evaluation, even if, in the recent case bought by the School Strike crew, the court determination was that ‘Government doesn’t have a duty of care’ for us.

John Lazarus, Byron Bay

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  1. The methane given off by decaying materials is twenty times more potent as a Greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide until it eventually breaks down into carbon dioxide. Burning it avoids the higher Greenhouse Effect of the methane so we come out ahead by simply burning it.

    Burning it to produce electricity avoids burning the coal that would otherwise be needed to provide that power.

    The output of the methane combustion would be very different and much less polluting than the emissions from the existing stack. It would be almost entirely carbon dioxide and water vapour.

    • How long does it take UV light to break down the methane?
      Besides CO2 and water, what else comes out of a stack in Australia given the crazy scrubbers we are forced to put on them?
      Why could we just use solar panels and windmills to make that power?

      • The average time methane takes to break down in the atmosphere is about eight years. It makes a huge contribution to Greenhouse effect during this time.

        Burning something will only release compounds made from what is in the material being burnt and the air. Coal has many impurities such as sulphur which go up the smoke stack. That is the main reason they have scrubbers. Methane from biogas doesn’t contain significant impurities.

        The energy could be made from solar or wind but currently coal is still being burned. The methane needs to be burnt off. Why not use the heat produced to make electricity? The heat from the combustion is also used to maintain the temperature in the digesters.

    • Green waste composted in air doesnt produce Methane. Methane is only produced when waste is in an anaerobic situation (such as in underground water, or coal seams etc). Waste composted on ground or in dry soil does give of CO2, but from 1000 year air records found in ice, the evidence is that in the history of our planet, all of the fallen forest trees, branches,leaves, plants etc, have not increased the atmospheres CO2 levels as the surrounding vegetation absorbs the CO2.


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