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Coal transport infrastructure development

Our role

The Department of Transport and Main Roads plays an important role in facilitating the expansion of the state's natural resource industries, including our leading export — coal.

The transportation of coal is achieved through a multimodal network of roads, railways and ports. The department works with government owned rail and port corporations, other government departments, miners, industry bodies, rail track, coal terminal and port owners and transport providers to ensure this network, and future transport planning and policies, meet the growing demands of the coal industry.

The department also provides strategic advice and input on transport system development, governance of government owned rail and port corporations, and reports to the Queensland government on coal transport system performance and infrastructure development.

There are currently 49 operating export coal mines in Queensland, with two new coal mines under construction and another 21 advanced coal export projects being developed.

Coal transport infrastructure is provided predominantly by the private sector on a fully commercial basis, with access to capacity backed by take-or-pay contracts between miners, rail managers and rail and port transport service providers. In 2014-15 Queensland coal exports totalled 219.3 million tonnes.

Rail 

Coal is transported by Aurizon Limited, Pacific National and BHP-Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance Rail from mines, via the Newlands, Goonyella, Blackwater, Moura and West Moreton rail systems to the four coal exporting ports in Queensland at Abbot Point, Hay Point, Gladstone, and Brisbane.

Coal is also transported by rail to power stations at Stanwell and Gladstone, as well as various industrial users. The Central Queensland coal rail network, comprising the Newlands, Goonyella, Blackwater and Moura rail systems, is privately-owned and operated by Aurizon Limited. The West Moreton rail system in south-east Queensland is owned and managed by statutory authority Queensland Rail.

Major rail upgrades recently completed include the $130 million Goonyella Rail Expansion Project supporting the 11 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) expansion of the Hay Point Coal Services Terminal, and the $831 million Wiggins Island Rail Project involving construction of a balloon loop and track duplications and upgrades to support the 27 Mtpa Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal development.

Port of Abbot Point 

The port of Abbot Point is located approximately 25 km north of Bowen. In 2014-15, the port exported 28.7 million tonnes of metallurgical and thermal coal.

The port is administered by the North Queensland Bulk Ports Corporation. Abbot Point currently has 1 operating terminal, the Adani Abbot Point Coal Terminal (T1) which has an operating capacity of 50 Mtpa. T1 is leased to Mundra Port Pty Ltd under a 99 year lease. Mundra Port Pty Ltd is a subsidiary of Adani Mining Limited. Adani Mining plans to develop an expansion of the T1 coal terminal (called T0) of 70 Mtpa capacity to support the development of its Carmichael Coal Project in the Galilee Basin. The T0 Terminal and associated Abbot Point Gateway Growth (Dredging) Project have received all environmental approvals.

GVK Limited also plans to develop a 60Mtpa T3 coal terminal to potentially service up to 3 mines in the southern area of the Galilee Basin. This project is not expected to proceed until the early 2020s.

Port of Hay Point

The port of Hay Point is located approximately 30 km south of Mackay and contains two coal terminals. 

The Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal (DBCT) was originally developed by the Queensland Government as a common user coal terminal for mines in the Goonyella region in the early 1980s. Today, the terminal is leased to Brookfield Asset Management Limited, and operated under contract by a separate company Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal Pty Ltd, owned by a number of coal miners. The DBCT coal terminal is a multi-user terminal and has a nominal capacity of 85 Mtpa. In 2014-15, the terminal exported 71.6 million tonnes of metallurgical and thermal coal from the Bowen Basin.

The adjacent Hay Point Services Coal Terminal (HPSCT) is a single-user terminal of 55 Mtpa capacity, owned and managed by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA). In 2014-15, the terminal exported 43.4 million tonnes of metallurgical and thermal coal from the Bowen Basin. 

The combined capacity of both terminals is 140 Mtpa.

Port of Gladstone 

The port of Gladstone currently has 3 multi-user coal terminals, the RG Tanna and Barney Point Coal Terminals and the Wiggins Island Coal Terminal. The combined capacity of these three coal terminals is 107 Mtpa. 

The RG Tanna and Barney Point Coal Terminals are owned and managed by the Gladstone Ports Corporation. In 2014-15, both terminals exported a combined 67.8 million tonnes of metallurgical and thermal coal from the Bowen Basin. A further 0.2 million tonnes were shipped to other Australian ports. The combined capacity of both coal terminals is currently 80 million tonnes. The Barney Point Coal Terminal is scheduled to close by September 2016.

The Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET), with a capacity of 27 Mtpa, is owned by WICET Pty Ltd, a private coal industry consortium. In 2014-15 the WICET Terminal exported 0.5 million tonnes. The terminal is currently in a ramp-up phase with 2015-16 exports projected to reach 6.7 million tonnes.

Port of Brisbane 

The Port of Brisbane contains 1coal terminal, the Queensland Bulk Handling Coal Terminal (QBHCT), owned and operated by Queensland Bulk Handling Pty Ltd. The QBHCT coal terminal has an export capacity of 10 Mtpa. Coal exports comprise thermal coal produced from mines in the West Moreton and Surat Basins. In 2014-15, coal exports totalled 7.3 million tonnes.

Projects 

Future major coal infrastructure projects are largely associated with the future development of the Bowen, Galilee and Surat Coal Basins.

Bowen Basin

The Bowen Basin is Queensland’s premier coal basin and its high quality metallurgical coals underpin Queensland’s position as the world’s largest exporter of seaborne traded metallurgical coal.

Galilee Basin

In the Galilee Basin 6 proposed mines with capacities ranging from 15 to 60Mtpa are at an advanced stage of planning. Although 5 of these mines have received all environmental approvals, it expected that only 1 of these Galilee Basin mines is likely to proceed by 2020 due to current low coal prices.

Two new proposed railways to service Galilee Basin mines are planned and have received all environmental approvals.

In April 2016, Adani Mining was granted mining leases necessary to enable development of their proposed 60Mtpa Carmichael Coal Project. Adani Mining plans to develop the North Galilee Railway, a 500km standard-gauge railway linking their planned Carmichael Coal Mine to the port of Abbot Point. Both projects are yet to reach financial close.

GVK Limited and Aurizon Limited have proposed development Alpha Coal Railway, a 500km narrow gauge railway extending from the southern Galilee Basin to Aurizon’s Newlands rail system, enabling export through the port of Abbot Point. This rail development is not expected to proceed until the early 2020s.

Surat Basin

In the Surat Basin a proposed 210km Surat Basin Railway, running from Wandoan to Banana (on the Moura rail system), could allow export through the Port of Gladstone. While the project has received all its environmental approvals it is currently on hold, as related coal mine projects are on hold due to low coal prices.     

Coal industry growth 

In 2014-15 Queensland coal exports totalled 219.3 million tonnes.

Over the next 10 years Queensland coal exports are expected to grow at an annual average rate of 3.7% per annum, to reach approximately 300 million tonnes in 2024-25.

This will require investment in rail and port transport infrastructure of approximately $7.7 billion over the next 10 years.

Last updated
24 August 2017