SUPPLYING a large proportion of the world’s metallurgical coal demand, Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT), 38km south of Mackay in Central Queensland, is Australia’s second-largest bulk export coal terminal.
Following the completion in 2009 of the terminal’s 7X expansion, DBCT has a nameplate capacity of 85 million tonnes per annum. It exports primarily hard coking coal from Queensland’s Bowen Basin, in addition to smaller amounts of pulverised coal injection (PCI) and thermal coal.
The terminal’s key international markets are Asia, Europe and Brazil, with a significant amount of coal destined for Japan, Korea, China and India.
DBCT has the capacity to accommodate about 770 ships every year, each carrying an average of 110,000t of cargo.
The terminal is owned by DBCT Management, one of the Brookfield Infrastructure group of companies: a global corporation that also manages European ports.
DBCT Management chief executive Anthony Timbrell said the terminal’s current throughput was lower than its capacity, hence the number of ships loaded was also lower.
In the 2011 to 2012 financial year, 50.8mt of coal was exported via the port: 492 ships were loaded, averaging a cargo size of 103,341t.
Mr Timbrell said DBCT’s system saw about 4.76mt of coal exported in August 2012, which was the record month so far this year. He said the average monthly throughput was about 4.16mt.
“While the terminal has not been stretched to handle its contracted capacity, it receives trains and loads the available vessels at a rate consistent with achieving 85mtpa,” Mr Timbrell said.
“That is, at the rate the terminal operates when coal is available, it could run at 85mtpa if the coal and shipping were continuously available.”
Mr Timbrell said he was hopeful 2013 would see a recovery in demand that would increase throughput at the terminal.
“We can only repeat other analysts’ forecasts, which also show increasing demand for metallurgical coal,” Mr Timbrell said.
“As thermal coal only accounts for approximately 14 per cent of total coal contracted with DBCT, and even that is destined mostly to captured offtake, we are not in a position to comment on the thermal market.”
DBCT was constructed as a common-user terminal by the Queensland Government in 1983. In 2001, DBCT Management was granted a 50-year lease (with a further 49-year option) to operate, maintain and develop the terminal. Since then, the company has completed significant expansions, including the 7X project.
DBCT is in operation 24 hours a day and now comprises three rail receival stations, a stockyard and four offshore wharves supporting three high-capacity shiploaders: all connected by a series of conveyor systems.
DBCT uses two reclaimer machines to supply coal to each shiploader, which enables the terminal to blend cargoes from various stockpiles.
Coal arrives at the terminal by rail: DBCT can receive up to 30 trains a day, each of which can carry up to 10,000 metric tonnes of coal, from two competing train service providers. Seven mining producers export coal extracted from about 16 mines through the terminal in the form of long-term ‘take-or-pay’ contracts.
When each train reaches the terminal it passes through one of the three rail receival stations, where the coal is released onto conveyors.
The conveyors then transfer the coal to either the stockyard for storageor directly to the wharf for loading. The 67 hectare stockyard provides eight rows of stockpiles with a combined static capacity of more than 2.28mt.
Once a ship is ready for its cargo the coal is loaded from stockpiles by bucketwheel reclaimers and placed onto the conveyor system.
It is then transported to a surge bin that acts as a buffer between the yard and the shiploader conveying systems, ensuring that an even loading rate is sustained. Customer vessels then transport the coal to various ports throughout the world.
The coal is transferred via conveyors to three high-capacity shiploaders 3.8km offshore. The 1.66km wharf has four berths that can accommodate ships ranging from 20,000 to 220,000 deadweight tonnes.
While there are no immediate plans for a further DBCT expansion, discussions are progressing regarding the proposed Dudgeon Point Coal Terminals project, which would involve the development of two new coal terminals at Hay Point port with an estimated capacity of a combined 180mtpa.
“Dudgeon Point will be the next major expansion project to accommodate capacity demands at Hay Point,” Mr Timbrell said.
He added that DBCT Management’s sister company Dudgeon Point Project Management (DPPM), which is also owned by Brookfield, had been named as one of two terminal developers preferred by the landowner, North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation.
Adani Mining is the other preferred proponent for the development. The estimated construction cost for the new terminals is between $5 billion and $6 billion each; for DPPM, the terminals will be funded by Brookfield and recovered through infrastructure and handling charges.
The development is expected to include new coal stockyards, up to six new ship berths and a new rail connection from the Goonyella train system to Dudgeon Point, about 4km northwest of DBCT. “State and Commonwealth approvals have been triggered and so an environmental impact statement is being prepared to meet the terms of reference for each government process,” Mr Timbrell said.
“Once approvals have been granted, and these will be subject to development conditions, final design can be completed with construction commencing in 2014-2015.” “On the basis of current deadlines, first coal would be exported in 2017 to 2018, but that is obviously sensitive to any delay from now.”