Government money returned

THE remains of $50 million in State Government money awarded to HRL’s ill-fated Dual Gas plant proposal, planned for a Morwell construction, has been returned to government coffers.

Confirmation of the grant’s return, of which about $20 million has already been spent, comes after more than a year of prolonged contractual negotiations between parties since HRL placed the project on indefinite hold.

In a statement published on its website, Dual Gas said an agreement had been reached with the State Government to end the funding agreement.

In August 2012, Member for Morwell Russell Northe told The Express a contractual arrangement had allowed an initial $20 million to be spent for engineering and design work. The proposed $1 billion project sought to establish a 600 megawatt brown coal gasification generator next to the EnergyBrix briquette factory. However the project was frozen in 2012 after the Federal Government withdrew a $100 million grant, after it failed to meet grant specific milestones, and was slapped with significant construction restrictions by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

After the federal grant withdrawal, Latrobe City Council called for money to be re-allocated to other Latrobe Valley projects, with councillor Graeme Middlemiss stating the Valley was “morally entitled” to receive the money.

However when contacted on Friday, council declined to comment on their preferred fate of the $30 million.

While widespread commentary has long considered the Dual Gas project dead, HRL alluded to hopes the proposal could one day be revived.

“HRL intends exploring other funding options to further progress the technology deployment,” a HRL spokesperson said in a statement.

As a result of last week’s funding return confirmation, Environment Victoria campaign director Mark Wakeham called for the cancellation of the two mining licenses awarded to a subsidiary company of HRL on agricultural land at Driffield, south-west of Morwell.

“The HRL project has now completely fallen over, however the unfinished business is they still hold two mining licenses in Driffield, which create great uncertainty for landholders and affect their ability to make plans for the future,” Mr Wakeham said.

“Government should act consistently with the decision they made to cancel mining licenses at Flynn’s Creek and withdraw HRL’s mining licence as the project is clearly not going ahead.”