[TimorLesteStudies] New Report- National Toxics Network: The Heavy Oil Power Deal: A Dark Cloud over East Timor's Bright Future

Bu Wilson Bu.Wilson at anu.edu.au
Wed Apr 1 17:42:36 EST 2009

v i a ETAN 

The Heavy Oil Power Deal
A Dark Cloud over East Timor's Bright Future

By Lee Bell BA MA (ESD), on behalf of the National Toxics Network (Inc),
<http://www.ntn.org.au/> www.ntn.org.au     info at ntn.org.au
March 2009

The complete 16-page report can be downloaded from
For more information about the heavy oil project, see

The following is from the Introduction and Conclusion sections:


National Toxics Network (NTN) is a NGO (non-government organisation) network
working for pollution reduction, protection of environmental health and
environmental justice for all. As the Australian focal point for the
International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), NTN works towards the full
implementation of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
(POPs) 2001 and other relevant international and regional chemical treaties.
NTN has a particular focus on children's environmental health.

The recent announcements by the Government of Timor-Leste regarding plans to
'electrify the nation' with a national power grid and 2 to 3 power
generation plants are of interest to NTN. While the objective of providing
reticulated electricity to all population centres in Timor-Leste is
commendable, (and indeed essential for sustainable development) the proposed
energy generation technology is a major step backward for the world's newest

The announcement that the electrification of Timor-Leste would be powered by
up to three heavy oil power plants has major environmental and economic
implications for current and future generations in Timor-Leste. This report
outlines the key environmental impacts that can be expected from the
operation of heavy oil power burners and questions the economic logic of
creating an energy distribution system dependent on foreign supplies of
heavily polluting residual fuel oil.

NTN has a focus on environmental issues which involve persistent organic
pollutants (POP's) which are now internationally recognised as some of the
most toxic and damaging chemicals which pollute our global environment.
Heavy Oil power plants are renowned for their high levels of air pollution
including the release of extremely toxic PCDD and PCDF, otherwise known as
dioxin and furans. These chemicals are known to deposit in soils for
kilometres around the emission source (i.e., the power plants) as well as
drifting through the atmosphere for thousands of kilometres to contaminate
other countries. The transboundary nature of the pollution impacts from
dioxin has led to global restrictions on activities which produce them.

In addition to dioxin contamination, heavy oil power plants contribute
heavily to atmospheric acidification, heavy metal contamination and a
significant risk to marine and coastal environments due to oil contamination
of cooling water effluent discharge. Moreover as developed countries race to
de-carbonise their economies in the face of accelerating climate change,
Timor-Leste will be committed to decades of energy production with one of
the highest carbon footprints. While heavy oil may currently appear to be a
'cheap' fuel for energy production, international carbon accounting and
trading may soon place a heavy price tag on such dirty fuel.

NTN would urge the government of Timor-Leste to seriously reconsider their
technology choice for their national energy generation needs. The pressing
issues of the unavoidable pollution impacts, carbon generation and economic
pitfalls of heavy oil based power plants, must be addressed.

It has been reported that considerable controversy surrounds the tendering
and contractual arrangements between the Government of Timor Leste and the
successful tenders for the project to supply energy production and a
national power grid for Timor Leste. These issues fall outside of the scope
of this report except in instances where the tender documents supplied by
the Chinese Nuclear Industry 22nd Construction Company Ltd (CNICC) address
matters that have environmental impacts. This report addresses the key
features of environmental impacts arising from heavy oil based power plants
and examines some of the claims raised by the Chinese engineers.

Pollution associated with a national economy dependent on heavy oil energy
is not necessarily limited to point source emissions from stacks and
effluent releases. There is a very real risk that tanker transport of heavy
oil can result in spills and accidents causing long term environmental
impacts and secondary economic impacts upon tourism and commercial fishing.
The recent spill of heavy oil by the container freighter Pacific Voyager in
south east Queensland is a case in point.


The current proposal to establish 180MW of heavy oil-fired power generation
in Timor-Leste is environmentally unacceptable and carries many hidden
costs.. The proposal is fraught with dangers for the population and
government. It is clear that what is being offered are old and polluting
power units that are being phased out in the rest of the world due to their
high service costs, high emission levels and extremely high GHG intensity.
The fuel for the power plants is essentially hazardous waste from oil
refining that contains high levels of PAH's sulphur, vanadium and nickel.
Combusting these materials along with the oil will generate atmospheric
contamination that includes dioxins and furans. Any spill of these materials
during delivery of the fuel could have very serious long-term impacts on the
environment, fishing and tourism industry of Timor-Leste.

The proposal by the Chinese Nuclear Industry 22nd Construction Company, Ltd
contains very little information on environmental management of the proposal
and no data on the emissions that will be expected from the power plants.
Similarly there is virtually no information of fate of toxic ash and other
solid wastes that will arise from the power plant.

This proposal should be subject to an immediate and thorough Environmental
Impact Assessment that fully investigates any potential impacts and their
consequences for Timor-Leste. It would also be appropriate to reopen the
tender process and to allow for proposals that use fuels other than heavy
oil (including renewable energy proposals) to bid for the contract.

NTN strongly urges the Government of Timor-Leste to halt this process and
reconsider alternative energy sources for their people and to avoid decades
of commitment to polluting old technology that other countries are already
phasing out.  

Charles Scheiner
La'o Hamutuk (The Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and
P.O. Box 340, Dili, Timor-Leste (East Timor)
Telephone:  +670-3325013 or +670-734-0965 mobile
email: cscheiner at igc.org    website: http://www.laohamutuk.org
<http://www.laohamutuk.org/>      skype: cscheiner

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