EXPORTING the coal produced by six Bowen Basin mines, the Hay Point Coal Terminal (HPCT) handled 34,336,380t of coal during the 2013 financial year – significantly shy of its 44 million tonnes per annum nameplate capacity. However, with the highest throughput in the last three years achieved in June, at 4.1 million tonnes, the necessity of increasing the terminal’s capacity is evident.
Owned by the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) and operated by the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation (NQBPC), the Hay Point Coal Terminal – together with the DBCT Management-operated Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal – is within the Port of Hay Point, one of the world’s largest coal export ports.
“The majority of coal exported through the port is high grade metallurgical coal that largely goes to steel making factories in Asia,” NQBPC stated in September. “Global forecasts for metallurgical coal remain relatively robust, with China’s requirement for steel driving it to become a significant importer of metallurgical coal.
It is expected that China’s steel production will not peak until around 2025 before levelling off, meaning it will continue to be a substantial player in the global coal market for at least the next decade.”
A 50:50 joint venture between BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi Development, BMA is Australia’s largest coal producer. It owns and operates seven mines in Central Queensland’s Bowen Basin, which supply domestic and international customers and account for more than a quarter of Australia’s annual coal exports.
Together, the Goonyella Riverside, Broadmeadow, Peak Downs, Saraji, Norwich Park (operations currently ceased), Gregory Crinum, and Blackwater mines have the capacity to produce more than 50mtpa, comprising high-quality coking coals, weak coking coals, pulverised coal injection and thermal coals.
According to BMA, the Bowen Basin is the country’s premier metallurgical coal basin. The large coal resource within the region is predominantly high-quality hard coking coal, capable of supporting long mine lives. The flat topography, favourable geology and thick coal seams are conducive to efficient mining operations; the area has established infrastructure with relatively short transport distances to deep water export terminals and is close to key growth markets.
In March 2011, BHP approved three projects in the Bowen Basin that would add 4.9mtpa of mine capacity to BMA: the new Daunia operation mine, additional mining at Broadmeadow and an increased port capacity at the Hay Point Coal Terminal. BHP and Mitsubishi would each pay 50 per cent of the required US$5 million investment.
Duania was officially opened in September 2013.
“In recent years, through the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA), we have made significant capital investments to expand our operations here in Queensland, where we mine the world’s premium quality metallurgical coal,” BHP coal president Dean Dalla Valle said.
“In addition to the US$1.4 billion invested to construct the 4.5 million tonnes per annum Daunia mine, BMA has committed US$7.7 billion for major projects in Queensland over the past three years. This includes the new Caval Ridge mine and the expansion of the Hay Point Coal Terminal currently underway, as well as the Broadmeadow mine extension completed this year,” he said.
“In a strong partnership with Mitsubishi, we are the state’s largest coal miner, operating seven BMA metallurgical coal mines in central Queensland, along with the Hay Point Coal Terminal near Mackay. We will have eight BMA mineswhen the nearby Caval Ridge mine is completed next year.”
Coal produced from the BMA mines is transported via an integrated rail network to the port, 40km south of Mackay. Both HPCT and Dalrymple Bay have purpose-built, rail inloading facilities, onshore stockpile yards and offshore wharves.
Queensland Rail (QR) owns the below rail component (track, signalling and overhead wiring) of the rail network which provides access to the above rail service
providers (rolling stock and locomotives), QR Network.
The offshore wharves are serviced by conveyor systems, supported on jetties, which run about 3.8km into the ocean to allow for deep water loading.
The HPCT wharf is 1.8km offshore and has two berths. Berth 1 is serviced by a luffing boom gantry with telescopic chute; Berth 2 is serviced by a rail-mounted shuttle boom with telescopic chute. Both have an average loading capacity of 4000t per hour with a maximum of 6000t/h.
During July, HPCT experienced throughput of 2,521,117t, with 3,528,982t moved in August.
“Global demand for coal continues to rise and the global export market for coal has increased by more than 70 per cent since 2004,” NQBPC stated in August.
“Even though Australia is a small player in terms of total global coal production, accounting for only about 6 per cent of global production, coal is Australia’s largest export earner and critical to our economic wellbeing.”
BHP reported that while industrial action and wet weather severely constrained production in the 2011-2012 financial year, the alliance had since experienced strong recovery following the conclusion of the BMA enterprise agreement in October 2012.
“With completion of our projects, BMA capacity will be 59mtpa [on a 100 per cent basis],” BHP stated.
“We are focussed on our productivity agenda – maximise utilisation of installed capacity and debottleneck the system; reduce operating costs; [and] complete projects in execution.”
BMA is currently undertaking a $2.5 billion expansion known as Hay Point Coal Terminal Expansion Stage 3 (HPX3), designed to increase capacity to 55mtpa in order to meet a planned production growth. The HPX3 investment includes replacement of the existing jetty to the coal terminal to increase its ability to withstand high seas and winds. The expansion will include a third berth, trestle, surge bins and out-loading conveyors.
The HPX3 project employs a predominantly local workforce of more than 100 staff, with 81 per cent of new labour sourced specifically from Mackay.
In March, the alliance reported that HPX3 was about 60 per cent finished and on schedule for completion by calendar year 2014.
“Offshore, nearly 200 permanent piles have been placed and the new trestle and berth are starting to take shape,” BHP reported. “Onshore, reclamation works are largely complete while new transfer towers and
surge bins are being delivered and erected.
“Due to the limited space available, the new transfer towers, surge bins and the ship loaders are being assembled off-site.”
The structures would be welded to the footings once they had been moved on site, and then tied in to the existing terminal infrastructure during planned maintenance shutdowns. According to the Draft Final of the Port of Hay Point Ten Year Development Master Plan, BMA was considering a longer term option of increasing HPCT beyond 55mtpa capacity. It holds an existing Commonwealth approval under the EPBC Act for an expansion to 75mtpa, valid until 2015.