FLARE-UP: The gas flare at QCLNG was lit for the first time on Monday August 4, 2014.
FLARE-UP: The gas flare at QCLNG was lit for the first time on Monday August 4, 2014. ALLEN WINTER GLA040814FLAR_1

Eco group: LNG decision straight out of 'Yes Minister'

AN AMENDMENT to QCLNG's environmental authority which clarifies smoke emitted at night does not meet the definition of "visible smoke" has been likened to BBC comedy Yes Minister by a local environmental group.

The environmental authority was amended on June 29 after an application by QGC for more flexibility to give off smoke during maintenance works such as shut-downs.

The company is restricted to emitting a total of seven hours of visible smoke per year.

Smoke density is determined using the Ringelmann Smoke Chart, which grades smoke based on its darkness.

In the latest amendment to the environmental authority, the Department of Environment and Science acknowledges smoke released at night will not result in a Ringelmann reading of greater than two, so smoke released at night cannot be considered "visible".

Smoky flaring at night has therefore always been allowed.

The company's request for an increase in the cap from seven hours per year to 29 hours was denied, but the cap on individual flaring events was raised to 90 minutes in safety-related circumstances.

The Gladstone Conservation Council, which opposed the change, was informed of the decision earlier this month.

"When I found out I was angry at first, then I couldn't stop laughing," co-founder Cheryl Watson said.


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The cast of BBC comedy Yes Minister.

Ms Watson said the decision was part of a broader struggle when it came to environmental agreements.

"People were happy to have that industry there under certain conditions, but the fact is those facts no longer apply - they change them," she said.

"Instead of making the companies abide by the environmental authority, the government has bent over and found little ways to work around the restrictions with them."

A QGC spokesperson said the company's flaring conditions remained the strictest of any of the LNG plants.

"QGC acknowledges that the Department must strike a balance, and appreciates that our need for some operational flexibility especially during major maintenance works has been acknowledged," the spokesperson said.

"We work hard at minimising flaring and the Government's air quality monitoring confirms no exceeding of the air quality objectives as a result of our recent shut-down activities."

A response from the Department of Environment and Science had not been received as of yesterday evening.