Diesel fuel spill at 41.8-MW Meadowbank hydroelectric facility in Tasmania, indirectly drought related


Australia’s state-owned Hydro Tasmania, said the utility spilled about 500 liters of diesel fuel on April 18, at its 41.8-MW Meadowbank hydroelectric facility, located in the Central Highlands region of Tasmania.

Although there are no specific details of how the spill occurred, the company said, “The spill was the result of human error.”

The region is facing an unprecedented combination of below average rainfall and an extended outage of the Basslink cable (a high-voltage direct current cable link crossing Bass Strait), according to the company.

To ensure electricity supply throughout the state, the company selected two sites for temporary diesel generation: the 48-MW Catagunya and Meadowbank hydropower facilities in Derwent Valley.

At each site, approximately 24 diesel generation units are being housed in their own shipping containers, to generate 24 MW of power. Hydro Tasmania said additional containers were placed onsite to house supporting equipment and fuel, and the spill occurred at one of the containers on the Meadowbank site.

Temporary diesel generation began at Meadowbank in late March. The company said it estimates three to four fuel deliveries per day will be required and diesel generation may run uninterrupted each day for about a three-month period.

“The spill was onto a 5-meter square area of crushed rock. It did not enter, and was not near Lake Meadowbank,” said Andrew Hickman, manager of Major Works.

Meadowbank Dam impounds the River Derwent, creating Lake Meadowbank, which is located above the facility’s powerhouse. Water discharged from the generation facility is returned downstream into the River Derwent.

The company said it advised the Australian Environment Protection Authority of the spill.

“Hydro Tasmania’s spill response was deployed effectively, the spill was contained and the contaminated material will be disposed of in accordance with EPA regulations,” Hickman said.

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