Callide Coal Plant Crap Out Investigators Appointed

Callide Power Station

Independent investigators have been appointed to delve into the recent Callide Power Station faceplant.

The 1.525 GW facility, situated near Biloela in Central Queensland, is made up of two black coal burning power plants. Callide B and C each have two generating units – B1 and B2, C3 and C4. Callide B has been operating since 1988 and Callide C since 2001. Queensland Government-owned CS Energy owns 100 per cent of Callide B and owns Callide C in a 50/50 joint venture with InterGen.

In May last year, Unit C4 – an appropriate name as it turns out – went bang in a big way.  A 300kg chunk of shrapnel resulting from the explosion was removed from the power station’s roof.

Callide Unit C4 explosion

C4’s dummy spit had immediate and major knock-on effects; also taking the other Callide units offline, and tripping other generation and transmission infrastructure – resulting in widespread blackouts.

After various delays, Unit B1 returned to service on June 16 2021, and B2 on June 22 last year. It wasn’t until July 2021 Unit C3 was finally returned to service. As for Unit C4, originally it was envisioned  it would be back up and running by May this year. The latest update indicates C4 won’t return to service until April 2023.

Update: In an announcement on December 22, 2022, CS Energy said Callide is now not expected to be back online until May 2023.

<Favoured Deity Name> Hates Callide

There have been other various burps and farts from Callide since. But on October 31 this year they became louder and wetter; quite literally on the latter. A structural failure of part of the Unit C3 cooling plant occurred, taking it offline. CS Energy said on November 1:

“Units B1 and B2 were unaffected by the incident and are continuing to generate electricity. “

At that stage, C3’s return to service was expected on 21 November 2022.

But later on November 1, Unit B2 came offline after cabling in the unit’s bottom ash conveying system was damaged during scheduled testing.

On November 4, Unit B1 went offline due to a feed pump vibration. It returned to service that day, but at a low load.

Unit B1 was still online as at yesterday and Unit B2 is forecast to return to service on 9 November. Unit C3’s forecast return to service date at this point is 3 January 2023, and that will initially be at reduced capacity.  CS Energy notes the dates are based on information available as at yesterday and may be subject to further change.

Update: In an announcement on January 24, 2023, CS Energy said C3 is now not expected to be back online until 30 June 2023 (300MW capacity) and then 30 September 2023 at full capacity (425MW).

Regarding the C3 investigation, CS Energy said yesterday it has appointed two external engineering experts to investigate the root cause of the incident.

“These external engineers are leaders in their field and will help us understand what went wrong on the Unit C3 cooling tower and what needs to be done so that this does not happen again,” stated CS Energy CEO Andrew Bills.

It’s almost as though this emissions spewing clunker is screaming to be put out of its misery for good.

Callide “Old Fashioned”

On Sunday, Queensland Energy Minister Mick de Brenni indicated there was no imminent risk of blackouts. He reportedly referred to Callide as “old fashioned” and stated “you wouldn’t build infrastructure like this going forward”.

“That’s why we’re investing in new renewables, wind and solar,” he reportedly said. “The energy system of the future is not about old-fashioned, hard-to-maintain equipment, it’s about new technology.”

In late September, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the $62 billion Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan. The Premier said the plan would bring cheaper, cleaner and secure energy for Queenslanders. Among the elements of initiative is 11.5GW of rooftop solar power and 6GW of embedded batteries.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

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