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Are we the Clever Country?: April 2007

Monday, 30 April 2007

ABC radio interview

The documents were sent to Sarah Farnsworth of ABC radio south-west Victoria. She passed them on to Kirsty Bradmore (host of South West Victorian Breakfast Program). Kirsty called me this morning to discuss and promote the idea. She gives great interview. When I felt caught like a rabbit in headlights, she helped me relax and keep focussed by asking relevant, logical questions.

Kirsty and Jarrod Watt wrote up the interview for the ABC website. They did find an early version of the proposal online at Thinkfree. Unfortunately, Thinkfree didn't keep the footnotes, so I'll see whether they can link to the latest.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Published: The Portland Observer

Exciting news... after Tuesday's council meeting, Bill Meldrum had asked for copies of my two documents, which I emailed to him on Anzac Day.

Today... headline: Drought-aid plan: Concept described as 'IV therapy' for drought-affected areas

A DESALINATION plant supplying water to drought-affected communities in northern Victoria could be built in Portland using energy from the city's aluminium smelter and geothermal resources.

The plan has been developed by Portland resident Graham Bates and submitted to Federal and State parliamentarians, as well as Portland Aluminium. It was also distributed to the Glenelg Shire Council on Tuesday night. Mr Bates is a health scientist in medical imaging and a former Department of Defence analyst with a special interest in infrastructure. The plan would also include construction of pipelines to the north and the initial use of water drawn from aquifers in the south-west. In his 40 page scientific concept paper for a low temperature multi-effect distillation desalination plant, he notes that while desalination plants have significant construction costs, Portland had two special elements that would provide dramatic savings for the operating costs in thermal desalting. They included:
# the smelter where aluminium was produced at 960 degrees celsius, the molten product sent to the ingot mill where ingots cooled off to ambient temperatures without any process to capture and re-use the heat for any other industrial purpose.
# A proven geothermal resource 1300 metres under Portland that provided water at 62 degrees celsuis. Mr Bates said the low temperature multi-effect distillation process only required the seawater feed to be heated to 65 degrees celsius before fresh water was produced. He said proactive support by Portland Aluminium for a desalination plant where potable water was used for drought mitigation purposes would ensure generation of carbon credits to offset greenhouse gas emissions. "This activity fits well within the triple bottom line doctrine of Portland Aluminium," he said. The plan also identifies several other elements that Portland had to make the project successful. They included, in part, easy access to umpolluted seawater, deepwater port access (to cater for the delivery of modules for the project), adequate fresh groundwater reserves, main supply routes to the north, and new power generation facilities (such as Origin Energy's planned 1000MW facility at Mortlake and the Macarthur wind farm project). Although there are no costings or details of project size in the paper, Mr Bates said yesterday, he envisaged it would have to be built in modules and possibly have the potential to produce about 200 megalitres a day. "Whilst I recognise there are efforts underway to build the goldfields superpipe as a solution for the Bendigo and Ballarat communities, I cannot identify any substantial Murray-Goulburn water storages that will be available to achieve this objective," he said. "In the health service, when we deal with dehydrated patients, we don't worry about the cost Ñ we stick an IV (intravenous) drip into their arm and get them back onto the road to recovery Ñ the same principle applies here. "Our dehydrated nation needs urgent IV therapy." Mr Bates said the next steps in the process included:
# Viability, planning and consultative phases, including environmentla impact studies, with apporvals to be issued if viable.
# Concurrent construction of water pipelines between the major aquifers linking industry, communities, towns and cities from Porltand northwards.
# Construction of a desalination plant near the smelter, ensuring the use of heat exchanger technology.
# Re-evaluation of the geothermal bore complex as a contributing resource in heating seawater in the process.

Recent news on the water crisis

Graham sent over the latest news items he has seen about the water crisis. I've been trying to teach him to use del.icio.us, and he will get there. (Although until Blogger and del.icio.us work together to let us make a daily post, one is less than optimally satisfied with both).

Some recent media articles indicating the seriousness of this situation may be found here:

The Age: Big investigation about Desal Plant site for Melbourne -- what about the country/foodbowl areas of Australia?

How do we know that there is a serious lack of water?? Why, when somebody starts stealing it of course!

Townsfolk may have to move! This is in Queensland, a lot closer to the monsoon tropics and "Wet Seasons" than Victorian residents.

Kind Regards

Graham Bates

Overview of Portland desalination plant concept

Graham recently sent me a copy of the overview he provided to Malcolm Turnbull and ABC:

Many in Govt have been shying away/ruling out Desalination as just too costly - meanwhile the nation is dying of thirst!!

I am a Health Scientist (Medical Imaging) and a former Analyst with the Dept of Defence (with a special interest in Infrastructure) living in Portland VIC.

In the Health Service, when we deal with dehydrated patients we don't worry about the cost - we stick an IV (Intravenous Therapy) drip into their arm and get them back onto the road to recovery -- the same principle applies here!!

Our Dehydrated Nation needs Urgent IV Therapy!!

I have been working on two scientific papers concerning the current long term and worsening drought situation since winter 2006 - construction of a Thermal Desalination Plant at Portland VIC.

Whilst I realise that there are efforts under way to build the Goldfields/Superpipe as a solution for the Bendigo and Ballarat communities, I cannot identify any substantial Murray/Goulburn water storages that will be available to achieve this objective.

In any case, the Goldfields pipe will still be relevant, as any Portland Pipe can join up at Ballarat, and therefore pump water northwards -- hopefully the Engineers have included contingency plans for a South to North pumping capability!

Unless there is substantial rain, we are really facing a catastrophic situation for these rural cities and communities - and the outlook for regular, soaking rains that will alleviate this situation are nowhere in sight.

The attached article the News.Com newsfeed clearly indicates the dire situation.


The plan that I am proposing provides a constant, consistent and guaranteed source of freshwater.

Whilst Desalination Plants do have fairly significant construction costs, we have 2 special elements at Portland that will provide dramatic savings for the operating costs in Thermal Desalting.

1. An aluminium Smelter that draws down a full 10% of the entire Victorian Electrical Generation capacity - heats molten Aluminium to 960 deg C and then lets the ingots cool off to Ambient temperature, without any process to capture and then use this heat for any other industrial purpose!

2. A proven Geothermal resource 1,300 metres under Portland that provides water at 62 Deg C.

3. The Low Temperature (LT) Multi-Effect Distillation (MED) process only requires the seawater feed to be heated to 65 deg C before fresh water is produced!!

The first document to read is entitled "Recycling - Hot Topic or Just Hot Air?"

The second one is entitled "The Clever Country - Dying of Thirst"

Whilst I have specifically dealt with construction of a Thermal Desal Plant in Portland VIC, it is really a template for the whole nation --- the principles of cogeneration etc will apply anywhere on the Australian Seaboard that has Power Stations and/or Heavy Industry co-located. If they have Geothermal resources nearby, then the operating costs become even cheaper.

In Queensland, the Aluminium Smelter at Gladstone would be ideally suited for a cogeneration project of this nature, given that Brisbane is on level 4+ restrictions.

Input welcome...

Kind regards

Graham Bates

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Guest contributor while my shoulder heals

I'm heading in for shoulder surgery, which will further interfere with my typing. Until it heals, the friend (moonflowerdragon) who helped set up this blog has agreed to post about ongoing developments.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Copy to Glenelg Shire Council

We've just received news that the proposed Heywood Pulp Mill would not be going ahead as the company were now going to build one at Penola.

This is a great loss to the Shire who have spent a lot of time and effort and maybe money in attracting this company to our shire.

I decided to present the desalination plant concept as a "ray of hope". Councillor Joy Benbow tabled Recycling - Hot Topic or Just Hot Air? and The Clever Country - Dying of Thirst at tonight's Council meeting.

Bill Meldrum from The Portland Observer asked for copies.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Copy to the Bendigo Advertiser

I wonder if Bendigo residents are concerned that their water storages are less than eight percent? Do they wonder whether the superpipe can really answer their needs? Would they be interested in supporting and pushing for a guaranteed supply of water from the south? Sent a copy to Mr Peter Hyett – The Bendigo Advertiser.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Copy to Catherine King

I contacted Cathering King with the idea that even if the superpipe fails to deliver water from the stressed Murray Goulburn system to Central Highlands, then (given forward planning) connecting a pipeline from a Portland desalination plant to Ballarat would deliver water all the way north.

Copy to ABC

Ballarat's superpipe has been much in the media lately. It seems absurd to be building a pipe from a stressed water resource in one part of the state to an almost empty one further south. I do hope they're engineering in a two-way pumping system. Surely sourcing NEW water is a wiser move. I sent a copy of the concept paper to Stephen Martin, Reporter from the ABC Office, Ballarat.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Copies to Kevin Rudd and Peter Garrett

Not hearing from Mr Albanese's office, I decided to go to "the top" because the ALP seem to be more focussed than government on the climate crisis. Latest versions sent to Kevin Rudd MP and Peter Garrett MP, Federal ALP.

Update: 2/5/07: Nothing heard back.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Copy to The Age

I saw an article in The Age mentioning that the state is considering a desalination plant to supply Melbourne, so I sent a copy of my concept paper to Debbie Cuthbertson, Chief of Staff, The Age. She said she was more interested in breaking news and she would pass the story on to her reporting staff who might follow it up.