QAL is committed to achieving the highest standard of environmental performance.
QAL’s tenacity, skill of our people and unrelenting focus on improving everything that we do will continue to ensure that we continue to create economic and social benefits for our region in a safe and sustainable way.
Environmental management is integrated into all aspects of our business and decision-making and we strive for a culture of environmental excellence and leadership.
Management plans, procedures and policies have been developed specifically for the site to ensure that environmental performance is at the forefront of our operations.
In addition to meeting the requirements under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, QAL is regulated by an Environmental Authority issued by the QLD Department of Environment and Science.
QAL reports monthly on compliance against the site’s Environmental Authority.
Management plans, procedures and policies have been developed specifically for the site to ensure that environmental performance is at the forefront of our operations. As part of our commitment, we have identified four key areas:
Water is essential to our refinery operations. Since the commissioning of Queensland’s largest water recycling project in 2002, we continue to recycle the majority of Gladstone city’s wastewater. In 2011, we began utilising treated effluent from Boyne Island/Tannum Sands for use in the refinery.
A large number of controls have been implemented and are maintained to minimise any impact of airborne particulates. Community and site based continuous dust monitors, linked with wind speed and direction information, dust gauges and internal quality audits monitor the effectiveness of our dust reduction programs.
Revegetation of our process residue areas continue each year, both on site and in the buffer zone between our refinery and the community. Long-term revegetation work on the former residue disposal area continues to be extremely successful with a large supply of grass for dust control and trees as shelter for native animals and birdlife.
We work to promote recycling programs across all facets of our business. Since June 2003 QAL has operated an on site Waste Transfer Facility. The facility receives and sorts all QAL’s general waste streams to improve the proportion of waste able to be recycled or reused. By recycling and reusing waste in 2017, we have avoided the release of 1,832 tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to planting 6,832 trees, or removing 458 cars off the road for one year. In 2016, QAL recycled 93 per cent of materials brought to the waste transfer facility.
5 Year Environmental Improvement Program
We take very seriously our commitment to the environment, our employees and the community to ensure employment for future generations. In August 2018 we committed to a 5 Year Environmental Improvement Plan to ensure reduction of our environmental risk profile.
Originally estimated to be an investment of $260M over 5 years, the estimate is now approximately $480M, now that solutions have been determined. This huge investment across the site will ensure year-on-year improved environmental performance.
To support this shift we need to change the way we manage our risks including empowering employees to identify and act on critical controls.
As part of our commitment to environmental excellence and sustainability, we have partnered with multiple research groups to facilitate a range of studies.
Mangrove Studies with Trinity
In 2021 QAL was approached by Trinity College for permission to access QAL property to conduct mangrove studies. The QAL Environmental and Community Relations teams sought approval for access to QAL mangrove areas and enjoyed accompanying and educating the school students in the importance if intertidal areas, mangroves as fish hatcheries & how to identify mangroves. The students also left a leaf capture net in the mangrove canopy to capture and inspect the fallen leaf matter and other debris from the trees.
Bird Watching Group
Since 2010 QAL have partnered with the local birdlife Capricornia group to identify and count wader birds at several locations onsite. Pre-covid the small but enthusiastic group came to site monthly and checked bird populations at the Ash Dam, Sand Ponds & Mangroves behind the Coal Stockpile and the Entrance Road wetlands. The number and species sighted are collated and sent for inclusion in the Queensland state and National Wader Survey counts. Given QAL’s industrial nature, the birdlife utilising our ponds and wetlands is quite remarkable and varied.
Black Breasted Button Quail
Roughly two decades ago evidence of Black Breasted Button Quail (BBBQ) bird habitation at the Red Mud Dam northern boundary triggered an ambitious plan to re-establish their native habitat and encourage breeding in the area. Since then QAL have conducted weeding programs, removed invasive grasses, reviewed and improved fire management strategies and planted the vine thicket habitat favoured by the birds. Over the years only small circular depressions were seen to suggest the birds were still in the area. More recently camera traps were set and have shown the bird in action and the most recent survey captured just shy of 100 bird movements across the cameras.
The Thermal Oxidiser is used to destroy odorous gases and liquids collected from the Digestion area of the plant.
The Thermal Oxidiser operates like an oversized Bunsen Burner, using natural gas to heat to 950oC where the odorous streams are burnt off and destroyed.
QAL installed the first Thermal oxidizer in 2003 which commenced being operational in 2004.
A new, larger appliance was installed as a part of the 5-YES program in 2020 to ensure 100% coverage is achieved across the two appliances during maintenance and shutdown phases.
Over the last 8 year, in conjunction with University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute, trials have been taking place at QAL’s Residue Management Area.
The bio-engineering technology works by transforming bauxite residue, a by-product of alumina refining also commonly called ‘red mud’, into a soil-like material capable of hosting plant life.
In 2021 the trials moved to full scale production.
Non Thermal Plasma
Non Thermal Plasma (NTP) is used for the destruction of odorous compounds present in vapour sources by generating a high voltage Plasma field. When the odorous compounds pass through the plasma field, they are broken down (destroyed) to form smaller non odorous compounds.
NTP was successfully trialled at QAL in 2019 and now a full-scale plant has been installed.