Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro Project
The Pioneer Valley and adjacent ranges in the Burdekin catchment have been identified as a preferred second site for a long-duration pumped hydro energy storage (PHES) facility.
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questions & answers
A: The Project is currently in the technical investigation phase. During this phase, Queensland Hydro will focus on completing a range of technical studies to inform a Detailed Analytical Report (DAR) for the Queensland Government.
The DAR will contain a preliminary assessment of noise, air quality and vibration impacts during construction, this will include potential impacts on sensitive flora and fauna. Mitigation measures would be identified for any potentially significant impacts. A more detailed assessment would be presented as part of the Environmental Impact Statement; this may include computer-based air, noise and vibration modelling.
A: The Project will follow the same approval process as other major projects in Queensland and Australia. This includes the Environmental Impact Statement process, which provides opportunities for the community to respond to the proposal.
A: If the Project were to proceed to construction and operations, the intakes and outlets of the system would be screened to prevent objects, including aquatic wildlife, from being drawn into the system. Once aquatic ecology assessments have been completed, and a full understanding of the species present has been gained, additional species-specific actions may be incorporated into the design to reduce wildlife impacts.
A: If the Project were to proceed to construction and operation, the reservoir ecosystem would be modified from a flowing riverine system to a standing waterbody. The reservoirs would be subject to regular fluctuations in water levels when the hydropower system was in operation. The range of species present in the reservoirs is likely to change due to the altered conditions. Further assessment will be provided as part of the Detailed Analytical Report and Environmental Impact Statement to better understand likely impacts to individual species.
A: If the Project were to proceed to construction and operation, the lower reservoir would be created by damming a portion of Cattle Creek (south branch). Upper reservoir A would be created by damming the uppermost portion of Pla Creek, while upper reservoir B would be created by damming the uppermost portion of Quandong Creek.
Water releases would still occur from the dam on Cattle Creek to ensure that downstream environmental flow and water allocation security requirements continue to be met.
A: The project is currently in its technical investigations phase. During this phase Queensland Hydro will focus on completing a range of technical studies to inform a Detailed Analytical Report (DAR) which will be provided to the Queensland government. The aquatic ecology study completed as part of the DAR will consider potential risks associated with transfer of aquatic weed species between the upper and lower reservoirs. The terrestrial ecology study completed as part of the DAR will consider potential risks associated with transfer of land-based weed species. Both studies will identify mitigation measures to reduce these risks. For spread of land-based weeds, measures such as vehicle washdown procedures and physical or chemical weed control will be considered.
A: During the technical investigations phase this phase Queensland Hydro will focus on completing a range of studies to inform a Detailed Analytical Report (DAR) for the Queensland government. The DAR will include a high-level analysis of potential local climatic effects. If the analysis indicates local climatic effects are likely to be an issue, a more detailed assessment would be prepared at the Environment Impact Statement (EIS) phase of the project.
A: Major projects timelines and approvals may be extensive due to the sequential performance of technical studies, seasonal surveys and detailed design. There may also be revisions to project timelines due to factors such as the finalisation of design or unforeseen weather events. Queensland Hydro has developed a project timeline that allows for the key activities outlined above to be undertaken at an earlier stage in the project development process, and in parallel where possible. This also reduces the risk of time-consuming redesign during the later stages of the project, which minimises potential delays.
A: The project is currently in the technical investigation phase. During this phase Queensland Hydro will focus on completing a range of technical studies to inform a Detailed Analytical Report (DAR) for the Queensland Government. An aquatic ecology study will be carried out as part of the DAR and include input from aquatic fauna specialists. The aquatic ecology study will assess potential impacts to key aquatic fauna species, including species such as the platypus, Eungella crayfish and Eungella day frogs, and will provide advice on what could be done to manage potential impacts.
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) requires specific assessment processes that will be followed in relation to listed threatened species under applicable Commonwealth and State legislation. Reports are made available through the EIS process for review, assessment and approval by relevant Commonwealth and State agencies, and to apply conditions that the proponent (project) must implement in relation to the species.
A: During the technical investigation phase, Queensland Hydro will focus on completing a range of studies to inform a Detailed Analytical Report (DAR) for the Queensland Government. For the Queensland Government to progress the project to the next phase, the primary project approval process would be an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under both State legislation (i.e. the coordinated project process under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971) and Commonwealth legislation (i.e. the controlled action assessment process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). A broad range of secondary approvals would also be required under other State planning and environmental legislation.
Based on the current indicative project schedule, this formal EIS process could commence in 2023, and is estimated to conclude in 2027. Should the EIS be approved, receipt of other secondary approvals is targeted for 2028.
A: The project catchment only accounts for about five percent of the mean annual flows discharged from the mouth of the Pioneer River to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. This means potential for the project to impact water quality to the Great Barrier Reef is low. The Detailed Analytical Report (DAR) will include a study of potential impacts to water quality, which will also consider impacts to the Great Barrier Reef. Should any potentially significant impacts be identified, the DAR would identify measures to mitigate these impacts.
Additionally, the Great Barrier Reef is classified as a Matter of National Environmental Significance (MNES), under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. If the project progresses to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) phase, any potential for impacts to the Great Barrier Reef would need to be assessed in detail. This assessment would be considered by the Department for Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water (DCCEEW).
A: The lowest level the lower reservoir would reach is the minimum operating level of approximately 185m AHD (Australian Height Datum).
At this level there would still be a significant volume of water remaining in the reservoir at approximately 35m deep at the deepest point. Further modelling will be undertaken as part of the Detailed Analytical Report to determine the proposed cycling of the system (i.e. how long it may remain at the minimum operating level).
A: Based on the current concept design, the proposed water levels are:
- Full supply level 206m AHD
- Minimum operating level 185m AHD (approx. 35m deep at the deepest point)
- The existing ground near the deepest part of the lower dam is 150m AHD.
Note that these levels may be adjusted as further technical studies are undertaken and the project design develops in response to these studies.
A: The dam would not increase flood risk. If the Project were to proceed to construction and operation, floods that would cause the water level to rise would reach the dam spillway crest at full supply level, and flow naturally over the spillway downstream. The design of the dam spillway would consider a worst case probable maximum precipitation event similar to a large tropical cyclone located exactly above the project catchment. The spillway is intended to be ungated, meaning that no human decision-making would be required to initiate water flow, and the water would overflow when it reaches the spillway level.
A: Should the Project obtain the required approvals and proceed to construction, Queensland Hydro will work with Australian and international experts experienced in these types of projects to design and construct the scheme, including the dam wall.
As required by Queensland Dam Safety Legislation, dam projects include comprehensive geotechnical investigations and must be designed in accordance with strict design guidelines, such as Australian National Committee on Large Dams (ANCOLD) and International Committee on Large Dams (ICOLD). Given the regulatory framework in place for designing and constructing regulated dams in Queensland, dam failure is extremely unlikely.
Queensland Hydro has an internationally renowned Technical Review Panel looking at the dam design. The final design would also be subject to approval from the Queensland dam safety regulator.
A: If the project was to proceed, flows through Cattle Creek would continue during construction. See the first water Q&A response HERE. Once the reservoir is completed and filling has commenced, the project would continue to release water to ensure that environmental flows and water security for downstream users are maintained. The design would include outlet valves for this purpose.
A: These creeks are situated on what is known as permeable alluvial gravels, which can lose surface flows during dry periods. During these dry periods, the creeks will still maintain subsurface groundwater flows.
The proposed lower reservoir would connect to bedrock and use measures such as grout curtains to ensure it was water-tight. As such, the reservoir is not expected to “dry up” like a typical riverbed.
A: If the project proceeded to construction, the dam walls would be made of concrete and/or rock, and connect the bedrock to provide a water-tight seal. The reservoirs behind the dam wall are not planned to be concreted, and would consist of the natural topsoil and alluvium from the reservoir area today
A: Hydrologic studies to be completed as part of the Detailed Analytical Report (DAR) will consider evaporation and seepage losses from all three potential reservoirs.
A: Options for managing water flows for Cattle Creek are considered during the detailed design phase.
Water would continue past the wall during construction around the first half of the reservoir. Flows would then pass through the outlet works of the first half of the wall while the second half of the wall is constructed.
Flows for water allocations, offtakes and environmental flows will continue through the outlet works of the wall during the filling period of the reservoir.
A: Detailed assessments and modelling of water quality, both existing and once the project is operational (if the project proceeds), will be undertaken as part of the DAR and developed in more detail should the project progress to an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) phase. This study will look at potential contamination, sediment, water and movement. Based on investigation findings, the project design will incorporate measures to maintain water quality and to avoid and minimise any potential impacts.
A: Initial modelling identifies it would take two average wet seasons to capture enough water to fill the reservoir and meet existing water allocations – offtakes as well as environmental flows. Should the filling be undertaken in a dry period it is expected it would take a longer period. Once the reservoir is filled, small amounts of top-ups would be required to account for evaporative losses, which would be offset by the local rainfall received in the region.
The pump turbines and equipment can be commissioned if the reservoir is not entirely full. If the natural inflows are low, full capacity will be reached only when the reservoirs are entirely full. The pumped hydro scheme could still operate, at a reduced number of hours, if the reservoirs are not completely filled.
A: If the Project were to proceed, Queensland Hydro would ensure all necessary dam safety regulations are adhered to. Homeowners are encouraged to consult their insurer, should questions about their policy arise.
A: The Queensland government is funding this Project
A: Hang-gliding activities will be investigated as part of the Detailed Analytical Report, this will include consultation with affected stakeholders and regulatory agencies.
A: Engagement is underway with Traditional Custodians, directly impacted landowners and the community. Engagement kicked-off immediately following the Project’s announcement. Queensland Hydro is committed to building and maintaining relationships with Project stakeholders as it progresses.
A: The Project is currently in the technical investigation phase. Preliminary desktop studies have identified land required for the Project. This includes land that would be directly affected by the water inundation areas, dam walls and potential areas for other surface infrastructure, such as entry and exit portals and any potential road realignments.
Over the next 18 months, Queensland Hydro will conduct detailed analytical studies to better understand the environmental, cultural, social, economic, and technical impacts. Initial conversations have begun with landowners to discuss obtaining access to their land to complete these studies. The investigation phase will also involve gathering information about potentially affected properties.
These investigations will enable the Queensland Government to decide if the Project progresses to the next stage of development. If the Project were to advance to this stage, a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement would be undertaken. Queensland Hydro would be able to confirm the land required for the Project, following environmental and Project approvals.
Queensland Hydro is working with each landowner to understand their specific circumstances as part of discussions related to compensation. We want to achieve a positive financial outcome for all landowners in the impacted area.
Any acquisition discussions are at the request of the landowner based on their individual circumstances.
A: The Pioneer-Burdekin and Borumba sites are two preferred locations identified for further investigation for pumped hydro schemes. The locations for further investigation have been selected based on a preliminary review of various factors and risks, including engineering and constructability, environmental considerations, social impacts and benefits, and cost and timing to construct.
The Project is currently in the technical investigations phase. During this phase, Queensland Hydro will focus on completing a range of technical studies to inform a Detailed Analytical Report for the Queensland Government, including both hydrologic and environmental studies.
A: In June 2021, the Queensland Government announced $22 million in funding for detailed design and cost analysis for a pumped hydro project at Borumba Dam.
In June 2022, the Queensland Government announced $35 million to advance a state-wide search for a second pumped hydro energy storage site. This funding provided for engineering, land and engagement services to identify and prepare for confirmation of the second site. These engagements were undertaken in line with procurement requirements.
Under the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan announced on 28 September 2022, the Queensland Government set aside $273.5 million, including $203.5 million in new funding, to advance the consideration of the Borumba and Pioneer-Burdekin Projects.
The Pioneer-Burdekin project is currently in the technical investigations phase. In November 2022, Queensland Hydro opened an Expressions of Interest process to identify local service providers for geotechnical, environmental and accommodation services to help shape the procurement packages required for this phase.
A series of procurement opportunities directed at local suppliers for geotechnical and environmental work, was released from 17 February 2023.
A: The Pioneer-Burdekin and Borumba Pumped Hydro Projects are central to the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan (QEJP) announced on 28 September 2022. The Plan aims to put downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices in the longer term, with more investment into cheap renewable energy and storage.
Independent modelling indicates that under the QEJP, lower wholesale electricity prices will flow through to lower retail bills than without the QEJP, with an average annual bill for a household projected to be $150 lower in 2032 and $1,495 lower for a small business.
A: The Queensland Government identified the Pioneer-Burdekin site for further investigation for potential pumped hydro. The location was selected after a preliminary review of various factors and risks, including engineering and constructability, environmental considerations, social impacts and benefits, and cost and timing to construct.
If the Project proceeds, the primary project approval process would be through an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under both State legislation (i.e. the coordinated project process under the State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971) and Commonwealth legislation (i.e. the controlled action assessment process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999). A broad range of secondary approvals would also be required under other state planning and environmental legislation.
The EIS process would build on the findings of the DAR, and based on the current indicative project schedule is estimated to conclude in 2027.
“FPIC is a principle protected by international human rights standards that state, ‘all peoples have the right to selfdetermination’ and – linked to the right to self-determination – ‘all peoples have right to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. Backing FPIC are the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Labour Organization Convention 169, which are the most powerful and comprehensive international instruments that recognise the plights of Indigenous Peoples and defend their rights.”
A: Queensland Hydro has commenced engagement with the Traditional Custodians. The principles of free prior and informed consent will guide the Project if it proceeds to the approvals phase.
Queensland Hydro will also work with Traditional Custodians to develop appropriate cultural heritage studies and management plans. Queensland Hydro will also enter good faith negotiations regarding any aspects of the Project that may affect Native Title interests and any other cultural or social matters of importance. Should agreement be reached regarding native title consent, this could be formalised through an Indigenous Land Use Agreement which requires a rigorous native title group consultation and decision-making process as detailed in the Native Title Act 1993.
A: During the technical investigations phase, Queensland Hydro will focus on completing a range of technical studies to inform a Detailed Analytical Report (DAR) for the Queensland Government. The DAR will include Front End Engineering Design that will refine the location of required tunnels based on the outputs of geotechnical, environmental, and cultural heritage studies
A: Stakeholder engagement is a priority for Queensland Hydro to ensure we deliver the best outcomes for Queensland and the local community. The project team has held information sessions in Finch Hatton, Eungella, and Mackay in early October and mid-November 2022.
As we receive feedback from the technical investigations, we will endeavour to provide further updates during the investigation period on the key areas of interest highlighted by the community.
A: New electricity transmission lines and substations will be needed to connect the Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro Project to the existing transmission network in the area. The transmission infrastructure will allow renewable energy from across Queensland to be stored at the site during the day and then released to supply power to customers at peak times, such as early evening.
To select new transmission line routes, Powerlink assesses social, economic, and environmental factors such as existing and future land use, the location of homes, flora and fauna, existing electricity infrastructure corridors and topography. Powerlink’s engagement approach is focused on early discussions with landowners and the community to gain better insights into existing land uses and constraints. This information then directly informs potential corridor options for further investigation. Community views are sought on all corridor options to help select a preferred corridor.
A: If the Project were to proceed to the approvals phase an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) will follow, the EIS process provides stakeholders, interested organisations and the public with the opportunity to respond during the public notification period.
The EIS would be available for a minimum period of 30 business days, during which the EIS document can be reviewed, and submissions received. Queensland Hydro is committed to keeping the community updated as information about the Project becomes available
A: A designated Landholder Engagement Adviser has been assigned to directly impacted landowners to provide tailored support and guidance. Information packs have also been provided to landowners about the process for the project team to attain access, detail on financial support provided by Queensland Hydro to engage a lawyer, valuer and other experts that may be required to assist landowners. It also includes an explanation of factors considered in the land valuation and acquisition process (where applicable).
A: The Queensland Government has undertaken an extensive screening process looking at suitable locations for pumped hydro projects. The Pioneer-Burdekin site, along with the Borumba site, are the two preferred locations identified for further investigation. The locations for further investigation have been selected based on preliminary review of range of factors and risks including engineering, constructability, environmental considerations, social impacts and benefits, cost and timing to construct. The ability to construct 5,000MW at one location for Pioneer-Burdekin is unique in Queensland, and globally. On this basis further investigation of the Pioneer-Burdekin site is a main priority for Queensland Hydro.
A: Queensland Hydro will work with the local community, Mackay Regional Council and the Department of Transport and Main Roads, as technical investigations for the Detailed Analytical Report (DAR) progress to understand site access and any potential impacts the project may have on existing transport routes, which include the Mackay-Eungella Road.
Studies will consider traffic volumes, road capacity, road realignment and road surface requirements. Other studies include a range of social, environmental, and financial considerations related to traffic and transport. The outputs of these studies would inform any proposed modifications to the existing road network.
A: If the project proceeds to construction, it is proposed that one or more temporary construction camps may be utilised to accommodate the workforce. Queensland Hydro will work with Mackay Regional Council and local service providers to understand how it can support future accommodation and housing opportunities in the region.
A: Preliminary desktop studies have identified land that may be required for the project. This includes land that would be directly affected by inundation areas, walls and potential areas for other surface infrastructure, such as entry and exit portals and any road realignments required should the project proceed. Queensland Hydro will work closely with any directly impacted landowners. Negotiations will involve independent valuations, including Queensland Hydro paying reasonable legal costs incurred by landowners.
A: We have commenced discussions with Yuwibara and Widi Traditional Custodian groups, and intend to work in partnership with these key stakeholders to assess cultural heritage and environmental values, as well as areas of significance. These discussions are a critical part of the engagement process and will be ongoing throughout the project.
A: Powerlink will investigate potential transmission routes in parallel with project investigations. Powerlink is committed to meaningful and early engagement with the community, landholders and Traditional Custodians as part of the option identification and selection process.
Powerlink has not yet commenced detailed planning, studies or design works on the connections to the Pioneer-Burdekin project site.
A: The Queensland Government undertook an extensive state-wide screening process looking at suitable locations for pumped hydro. The starting point for this analysis was based on the Australian National University STORES report and national map. These are publicly available and identify more than 1000 potential pumped hydro sites in Queensland, principally based on geographic factors such as potential proximity and height differential.
The Pioneer-Burdekin project site, along with the Borumba project site, are the two preferred locations identified for further investigations for pumped hydro. The locations have been selected based on a preliminary review of a range of factors and risks including engineering and constructability, environmental considerations, social impacts and benefits, and cost and timing to construct. The ability to construct 5,000MW at one location for Pioneer-Burdekin is unique in Queensland, and globally.
Links to the ANU STORES report and national map are provided below.