Energy in Victoria

Energy in Victoria

The State of Victoria, Australia uses many forms of energy for domestic, commercial, and industrial uses. The main energy source today is brown coal, which is one of the highest sources of climate change, sea level rise and global warming causing greenhouse gas emissions in the form of carbon dixoide.


Unlike many other states, the major coalfields of Victoria contain brown coal, a fuel high in ash and water, and generally unsuitable for combustions without specialized technology. As a result, in the early history of Victoria the state was dependent on black coal imports from New South Wales for its fuel needs.

It was not until the 1920s that the Latrobe Valley coalfields were fully exploited for power generation, when the State Electricity Commission of Victoria built the Yallourn Power Station and associated open cut mine. Since then two more open cut mines have opened in the valley, feeding power stations at Hazelwood and Loy Yang.

Additional brown coal reserves were at Altona, and Anglesea, and black coal in the Strzelecki Ranges in South Gippsland. Both the Altona and Strzelecki Ranges coalfields were small in size, and required underground mining. Both were wound up in the early the 20th century. The Anglesea coalfield has been mined for Alcoa's Anglesea Power Station since the 1960s.

In 2001-02, the Latrobe Valley produced 98.5% of Australia’s total brown coal production of 66.7 Mt. [ [ Australian Bureau of Statistics: Year Book Australia, 2004 - Profile of major commodities] ]

Brown coal has 3 times the climate change and global warming causing GHG emissions per KWh of electricity produced as natural gas. Hazelwood is commonly regarded as the most greenhouse gas polluting power station in Australia. If as is expected after the release of the report of the Garnaut Climate Change Review a cap and trade emissions trading scheme is adopted to reduce the effects of global warming on Australia, electricity produced by burning brown coal will be expected to increase significantly in price.


Current Victorian coal mines:


Due to the low energy value of brown coal, long distance transport of the fuel is not economic. As a result, the State Electricity Commission of Victoria used German technology to produce hard briquettes from Latrobe Valley brown coal. The initial plant was established in the 1920s at Yallourn, with a second opening at Morwell in the 1940s. These plants crushed, dried and pressed brown coal to extract the water, and form a hard fast-burning block that was easy to transport.

The SECV encouraged the use of briquettes in both industrial and domestic cooking and heating, as a replacement for imported black coal. Briquettes were also used in a number of peak load thermal power stations that were located away from the Latrobe Valley. Briquette usage in Victoria today has dropped since the introduction of natural gas to the state, but the Morwell Energy Brix factory remains today.

Town Gas

Town gas production in Victoria started in the 1850 to supply gas for lighting, heating, and cooking. It was originally the domain of many private companies, who all operated their own small gasworks which converted black coal into gas. The Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria was formed in 1950, and built a centralised brown coal gasification plant at Morwell. The plant opened in 1956 and used the German Lurgi process to produce gas that was transferred to Melbourne via a high pressure gas pipeline. [ [ Technology in Australia 1788-1988] ]

The production of town gas was changed in the late 1950s when Syngas production was developed, a process that converted waste gases from oil refineries to a useful energy product. [ [ Technology in Australia 1788-1988] ] The final blow to gas production was in 1965 when natural gas was discovered in Bass Strait, with the majority of Victoria changed over by the 1970s.


The majority of electricity in Victoria is generated by burning brown coal in thermal power stations in the Latrobe Valley. Initial power generation in the state was by a number of small companies, with work on a state wide network beginning in the 1920s under the State Electricity Commission of Victoria. The commission planned capacity upgrades many years in advance, with major base load power plants built at Yallourn, Hazelwood and Loy Yang.

The major electricity consumers in Victoria are the aluminium smelters at Portland and Point Henry in Geelong.


Victoria has a limited hydroelectric power generation system due to the limited water resources.

The Rubicon Hydroelectric Scheme was completed by the State Electricity Commission of Victoria in 1924, and was an important component of the state electrical grid at the time. It was later followed by the Kiewa Hydroelectric Scheme that was constructed between 1938 and 1961, the Eildon Power Station in 1956, Victoria's involvement in the Snowy Mountains Scheme that was built from the 1950s to 1970s, and the Dartmouth Power Station in 1981.


Trials of wind power in Victoria commenced in 1987, when the State Electricity Commission of Victoria erected a 60 kW capacity Westwind wind generator at Breamlea, Victoria as a demonstration project. The generator as sold to a private group in 1994 with the privatisation of the SECV. [cite web|url=|title=The History of Community Windfarms|accessdate=2007-07-19]

It was not until the early 2000s the commercial use of wind power for electricity commenced. Wind farms at Codrington, Challicum Hills and Portland were all built by private companies with State Government funding assistance. [ [ State of Victoria: Renewable Energy Action Plan] ]

Natural Gas

The search for natural gas in Bass Strait off Gippsland commenced in the mid 1960s by Esso Australia and BHP. The floating rig "Glomar III" was used for exploration drilling, which begun on 27 December 1964. After two months gas was struck, and by June 1965 it was confirmed a major gas field had been found. Know as the Barracouta field, discovery of the Marlin field followed in March 1966. [ [ Technology in Australia 1788-1988: Discovery in Bass Strait] ] Both of these fields use offshore drilling rigs as a production base. By 1969 the production plant and distribution network were complete, allowing natural gas to be sold to consumers. [ [ Energy Safe Victoria: Natural Gas in Victoria] ]

Additional gas reserves were discovered offshore from the Otway Ranges in recent years. BHP Billiton discovered the Minerva gas field 1993, with production commencing in 2004. [ [ Santos: Minerva field] ] The Santos Ltd. operated Casino field was discovered in 2002, and started production in 2006. [ [ Santos: Casino Field] ] In 2002 Woodside Petroleum prepared to develop their Geographe and Thylacine gas fields. [ [ Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association: 1997 - 2002] ] These newer gas fields use undersea wellheads connected to the shore and production facilities with pipelines, minimising the visual impact on the coastline.

Today approximately 1.5 million domestic customers in Victoria are supplied with gas via over 25,000 kilometres of mains. Industrial and commercial consumers account for nearly 50 per cent of gas sales. [ [ Energy Safe Victoria: Natural Gas in Victoria] ] In the 2005/2006 fiscal year, the average gas production in Victoria was over convert|700|Mcuft|m3 per day and represented 18% of the total national gas sales, with demand growing at 2% a year. [ [ DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES: Oil and Gas] ]


Oil was first discovered in the Gippsland Basin under Bass Strait by Esso Australia and BHP in March 1966 in what is now the Marlin field. By early 1968, the Halibut and Kingfish oil fields was discovered nearby. Production from the fields was estimated at up to 300,000 barrels per day, [ [ Technology in Australia 1788-1988: Discovery in Bass Strait] ] with recoverable reserves in the Gippsland Basin in the region of 4 billion barrels. [ [ DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES: History of Petroleum Exploration in Victoria] ]

In 1985, oil production from the Gippsland Basin peaked to an annual average of 450,000 barrels per day. In 2005-2006, the average daily oil production declined to 83,000 bbls/d, but despite the decline Victoria still produces almost 19.5% of crude oil in Australia. [ [ DEPARTMENT OF PRIMARY INDUSTRIES: Oil and Gas] ]


Further reading

* cite book
last = Edwards
first = Cecil
title = Brown Power. A jubilee history of the SECV
publisher = State Electricity Commission of Victoria
year = 1969
isbn =

* cite book
last = Gill
first = Herman
title = Three Decades: The story of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria from its inception to December 1948
publisher = Hutchinson & Co
year = 1949
isbn =

ee also

*Energy policy of Australia
*Renewable energy commercialization in Australia
*Solar power in Australia
*Wind power in Australia

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