Air emissions & odour

Some people are concerned that the pulp mill will smell, which is understandable, as older pulp mills did smell a lot at times.

Some people are also concerned that the pulp mill will worsen the air quality of the Tamar Valley, which has improved markedly in recent years because of efforts to reduce emissions from wood heaters.

The Bell Bay Pulp Mill will use the most up-to-date technology to prevent the escape of odours from the plant. It will be the first pulp mill in the world to have a three-tier odour protection system, which burns the odourous gases before they can be released. All three systems would have to break down at the same time for odours to be released.

The elimination of odourous emissions from the mill is achieved by the following primary factors:

  • Smooth and consistent operation of all production processes. (Minimising any unnecessary cause to stop/start the mill process e.g. through equipment breakdown)
  • Good training of operational personnel
  • Good preventative maintenance

In this way, the optimal performance of the mill from a financial perspective also results in elimination of odour and minimisation of all other key air and liquid emissions, giving a win/win to all concerned.

One of Australia’s leading experts in meteorology, odour management and air quality, Mr Robin Omerod of (then) Pacific Air & Environment[1] – conducted a comprehensive review of the research and modelling on air emissions from the mill. He also performed additional modelling. His key findings were:

  • Residents in the local area of the pulp mill should not notice any odour from the mill
  • Emissions of particulate matter (PM10) are expected to have an insignificant impact on Launceston. Any exceeding of PM10 guidelines in Launceston will be due to local sources rather than any influence of the mill
  • Emission of nitrogen and sulphur oxides will not exceed State Government guidelines at any of the modelled points in the Tamar Valley, and
  • The impact of carbon monoxide will be negligible.

Gunns has already monitored continuously and publicly reported on the air quality in the Bell Bay and Rowella areas for three successive years to get a good understanding of the air quality before mill is built. This, in addition to EPA monitoring means there is a high quality baseline data set from which to measure future changes in any key pollutants caused by the mill and/or other sources.

Odour and other emissions to air are regulated through the State Permit. The permit conditions require (amongst other measures):

  • Best possible design standards of the mill to minimize odourous emissions.
  • Extensive on-line surveillance[2] and measurements of actual emission rates and the key mill operating parameters that influence these emission rates.
  • Continual real-time measurement of meteorology, including the actual occurrence and location of “inversions[3]” at the mill site and computerised predictions of the distribution of emissions throughout the local area using this real-time measured meteorology.

Extensive monitoring programs to investigate and resolve any odour-related issues that may occur, and thoroughly report on a vast range of air quality measures both before the mill operates and ongoing, after the mill commences operating.

[1] Now PAE Holmes.

[2] Including on-line access to live information for regulators.

[3] An inversion is an atmospheric phenomenon that tends to exacerbate general air quality, particularly in  Launceston.