The future of Solid Energy's $25 million pilot briquetting
plant near Mataura, pictured here while under construction
last year, will be decided by state-owned enterprise
ministers in the weeks ahead. Photo by Helena de Reus.
Solid Energy's controversial plans to utilise billions of
tonnes of Southland lignite appear to be at an end as the
company fights for its financial survival.
Developmental costs of turning lignite into urea fertiliser,
briquettes for burning or diesel are in the tens of millions
of dollars and are yet to be proved commercially viable.
The likelihood that Solid Energy will drop all its lignite
development plans for conversion options has been welcomed by
environmental group Coal Action Network Aotearoa (Cana).
Solid Energy has permits covering large swathes of farmland
in the South, where it has been estimated there is 12 billion
to 15 billion tonnes of lignite, and the company has a $29
million pilot lignite-to-briquette plant under commissioning
Solid Energy had recently sold its bioenergy business to
management and had put 920ha of Southland farmland up for
sale, BusinessDay reported.
Solid Energy chairman Mark Ford told Radio New Zealand
yesterday the company would drop the lignite-to-briquette
''I think that [lignite use] is part of the non-core assets
that we will be exiting from,'' he said.
Cana spokeswoman Kristin Gillies said the group was
celebrating ''the end of the nonsensical lignite project'',
which had been leading Southland in the wrong direction.
''This was a ridiculous project from the outset: dirty,
low-grade coal being turned into a product nobody wanted,
digging up prime Southland farmland for coal that would
simply end up in the sky, adding to the looming climate
crisis,'' Ms Gillies said yesterday.
Co-spokesman for Coal Action Murihiku, Dave Kennedy, said
there would be ''a huge sigh of relief'' from the growing
number of opponents to the project.
''Southland has so much to offer a green future for New
Zealand, and we're very happy that the coal here will be left
where it belongs - in the hole, and the fertile soil can
continue to be productive for generations to come,'' he said.
He believed it was ''highly doubtful'' that the briquetting
plant could be sold.