• A VTC section showing the location of the proposed gas plume.
    A VTC section showing the location of the proposed gas plume.

A proposed Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) to be built near Wollongong is causing concern for local aviators at Illawarra Regional Airport.

The OCGT, to be known as Tallawarra B, is planned to be built 2.5 nm north-east of the airport and could send a gas plume 1300 feet into the air in the Albion Park circuit area, causing moderate turbulence.

The plume would interfere with operations both in the circuit and the RNAV approach for runway 16.

According to an out-of-sessions paper issued by the Regional Airspace Procedures Advisory Committee (RAPAC) on 16 May, the Department of Planning and Environment has approved either one Closed Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) or two OCGTs on the condition that Energy Australia can show that there is no risk to aviation,

CASA's Office of Airspace Regulation (OAR) has received an Airspace Change Proposal (ACP) from the proponent, and is proposing simply to insert a Danger Area on charts.

Illawarra Flyers' Chairman John Cleary says that his group is concerned not only about Tallawarra B, but also that CASA has not dealt with the issue in due process given that the gas plume will infringe the airports Obstacle Limitation Surface (OLS),

"An OCGT generator within the circuit of Illawarra Regional Airport is a hazard to aviation safety," Cleary believes. "A danger area within the only circuit available at YWOL due to terrain is not an appropriate or acceptable mitigation to the owner, the airport operator or the airport users and is contrary to ICAO SARPs [Standard and Recommended Practices].

"The potential adverse consequences of such a recommendation need to be understood through an appropriate risk analysis process involving the owners, operators and users and their representative organisations.

"We can’t find any representative organisation that has been consulted over this proposed change finding its way through the CASA regulatory system.

"All pilots, aircraft owners and their representative organisations are entitled to be consulted with correctly on this matter through the RAPAC system. This is not being proposed by CASA and has not been done."

According to RAPAC, CASA has the ability to determine that any gas efflux with a velocity over 4.3 m/s is a hazard to navigation. Tallawarra B gas plume has been assesed at 6.1 m/s.

Illawarra Flyers has proposed that Shellharbour City Council, operator of Illawarra Regional Airport, might have the ability to veto the approval for the OCGT and instead force Energy Australia to go ahead with the closed-cycle plant, which would capture the gas plume and convert it to electrical energy.

The issue is believed to be scheduled to go before the local RAPAC this Tuesday,

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