QCLNG lit its flare tower for the first time on Curtis Island on Monday.
QCLNG lit its flare tower for the first time on Curtis Island on Monday. Luka Kauzlaric

Flare tower test the last phase before production

EARLY risers got a bright start to the morning when the Queensland Curtis LNG flare tower was lit on Monday and natural gas was introduced into the plant.

The flaring is taking place as part of the process to test the first production unit of the QCLNG plant.

It is the last phase before QGC begins production in the fourth quarter of this year.

As part of standard procedures, Bechtel initiated the controlled ignition to allow the refrigeration turbines and compressors to start, an important step before cooling the first production unit to begin production.

A QGC spokesman said flaring was a normal part of industry in Gladstone and was the most environmentally friendly way to release gas from the facility.

"It is part of our stringent safety controls and is the most environmentally friendly way to release gas from the facility," he said.

"When we start operations QCLNG will have the second most greenhouse gas-efficient plant in the world after Snohvit in Norway - which naturally benefits from its position in the Arctic Circle.

"Through GE technology, our plant will operate with 27% less greenhouse emissions than the initial concept design."

He said a small flame - commonly called a pilot flame - would operate continuously from the flare stack during operation, and would be smokeless because natural gas burns cleanly.

"There will be a larger flame in the next few weeks, owing primarily to fluctuations in gas pressure during the commissioning process," he said.

"In the first few months there will be occasional flaring which will produce smoke.

"This will be in line with air quality regulations."

MONDAY: Queensland Curtis LNG has begun testing its flare tower on Curtis Island as part of preparations for first gas.

Residents may have been able to see the flame ignited on the middle plant from around 4.30am on Monday.

The flaring is taking place as part of the normal sequence of processes to test and prepare parts of the first LNG train.

A small flame will operate continuously from the flare stack in operations, while there will be a larger flame in the next few weeks, owing primarily to fluctuations in gas pressure during the commissioning process.

Read the full story in Tuesday's Observer.