Yallourn Power Station has predicted it will boost power generation three-fold this week, with a coal supply conveyor belt due to be reinstated this Wednesday.
With initial damage assessments to coal supply tunnels and conveyor belts complete, station and mine operator TRUenergy said the reinstatement would enable two extra generation units to go online, boosting output to 75 per cent.
“The team on the ground here has made really good progress; two tunnels have been assessed and are in good condition,” Yallourn director of operations and construction Michael Hutchinson said.
The Morwell River broke its banks last fortnight in heavy rains, sending water gushing in to the mine, shutting down its coal supply conveyor lines and forcing the power station to reduce generation capacity to 25 per cent.
Mr Hutchinson said the ongoing ‘truck and shovel’ operation, in which about 25 trucks shipped coal from the mine to the power station on internal and public roads, had sustained 60 hours worth of coal reserves for the single ongoing generator.
He added the trucking operation was “no longer burdening public roads”, which included a route through the Yallourn North township, after a bridge over the Morwell River inside the mine was cleared for normal operations.
This comes as Morwell River flows accumulate in the western part of the mine, diverted away from the conveyor belts last weekend, with TRUenergy assessments putting flows into the mine at 700 megalitres per day as of Friday.
According to engineers monitoring the recovery, Mr Hutchinson said if the Morwell River was left to continue flooding into the mine, there would be a “30 to 40-day window” before water levels would impact on mining operations.
In response to the rising water levels, efforts to begin pumping the water mass directly into the Latrobe River were due to begin on Friday, at a starting rate of 100 ML per day.
With a pumping target of 2000ML per day, he said TRUenergy was working to secure large-scale pumping equipment from New South Wales and Western Australian.
However, Mr Hutchinson would not comment on widespread stakeholder assessments the Morwell River collapse was a worse situation than a 2007 landslip, which saw the Latrobe River gushing into the mine for six days.
“I do read all the speculation in the press, but without the complete assessments, we don’t have the information to know how long it will take and what it will take,” Mr Hutchinson said, conceding a mere “patch-up job” to the river was out of the question.
“Clearly a repair is going to take months, and we are looking at some significant repairs here.”
Mr Hutchinson would not comment on the financial impact the incident would have on the company or what insurance it had in place, however said the event would likely raise insurance premiums for the power industry.
“We’ve got to do more work understanding what the costs will be; we’ve got no numbers yet in terms of potential cost recovery,” he said.
TRUenergy spokesperson Carl Kitchen said power generation from its fourth unit was expected to commence by mid-July, following the projected re-establishment of a second coal conveyor belt.