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Queensland looks to downsize desal plant

The Queensland State government is closely examining all options on the future of the Tugun Desalination Plant to reduce losses on the $1.2 billion project.

“It doesn’t operate to its full capacity and keeping it idle is costing millions. The operating costs of the plant this financial year to the end of April has been $14.2 million,” said Minister for Energy and Water Supply Mark McArdle.

Whilst operating it in “hot standby” mode saves about $10 million per annum, compared to continuous operation at one third capacity, it also creates additional asset risks as the plant was not designed to go through frequent stop/start cycles.

A government review will evaluate how best to use the efficiency and effectiveness of the plant in the short to long term.

In 2004 the Gold Coast City Council planned for a 50 megalitre per day desalination plant at Tugun to counter water supply shortages on the Gold Coast. The Beattie government almost tripled the scale to 125 megalitres per day and the plant is operated under an alliance between Seqwater, Veolia Water Australia and John Holland.

When the drought ended the desal plant's use came under question. Tugun proved its value during the January 2011 flood by keeping Brisbane supplied with drinking water.

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