Florence’s Futile Burrowing


I see that the Snowy 2.0 giant boring machine Florence, weighing 2400 tonnes and measuring 143 metres in length and 11 metres in diameter, is stuck again. It was stuck in soft ground between October 2022 and December 2023. It is now stuck in hard ground. Goldilocks-like, the machine only thrives in ground which is just right. It hasn’t yet tunnelled one kilometre in its fifteen-kilometre journey through the Snowy Mountains from the underground power station to the upper reservoir at Tantangara. Let’s hope that the next fourteen kilometres are neither too soft nor too hard.

As reported in the Times, Florence has advanced at only 4.5 centimetres an hour. I can’t vouch for it, but apparently this is 22-times slower than a snail. Okay then, how long at that rate will it take to complete the fifteen kilometres? While acknowledging, à la investment spruikers, that past performance might not be a reliable guide to the future, I did the sum. Rounded, it is 36 years. That takes us to 2060. Blast, beyond the net-zero horizon.

While you might think my figuring to be on the pessimistic side, it does assume optimistically that the tunnel can in fact be completed; by Florence or by some replacement machine shipped in from some foreign part. Florence is made in Germany. The ABC, no less, reported sources which claimed that the latest set-back is more serious than Snowy Hydro has been letting on. Engineeringly speaking, one source reportedly said, “It’s f****d.” Obviously us non-engineers can be bamboozled by that kind of techno-talk, but the message is clear enough.

The broader message is that we are spending a lot of money to buy a pig in a poke. We have no clear idea how much it will cost. From Malcolm Turnbull’s $2 billion in 2017 it has already risen to $12 billion, according to the latest Snowy 2.0 update. And that that doesn’t include the wires and poles to Sydney and Melbourne which might cost another $10 billion. It was due to be up and running in 2021, according to Turnbull. It will probably never be up and running but if it is, it won’t be this decade – notwithstanding optimistic forecasts by Snowy Hydro.

And the 350 gigawatt hours of power it is purported to store? The lower reservoir Talbingo is only two-thirds the size of the upper reservoir so even if it is empty, which it usually won’t be, only two-thirds of Tantangara can be spilled.  One engineering paper that I read put the potential output from Snowy 2.0 at between 40 and 200 gigawatt hours, depending on the conditions and circumstances, not 350.

In any event, let’s put 350 gigawatt hours in perspective. It is equivalent to running Eraring coal power station for 5 days. And remember, it takes a lot more power to pump water uphill than you get when it flows down. Storage isn’t generation. And you have to have spare power to pump the water up; which means you need to overbuild  power generation capacity which lies idle much of the time. It is a shemozzle built on a shemozzle presided over by a dimwit (guess who) predicated on a hoax.


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132andBush
132andBush
June 15, 2024 5:14 pm

Excellent post.
Thanks, Peter.

Who are the multinationals clipping the ticket on this brain fart?

Who in Australia has ties with them?

CharlieP
CharlieP
June 15, 2024 6:03 pm

There is a long undersea tunnel between Hokkaido and Honshu in Japan. Confronted by “bad” ground in 1988, the tunnellers abandoned their boring machine and built the tunnel using the drill and blast method.

Most, if not all, of the Snowy 1 tunnels were built this way.

Sancho Panzer
Sancho Panzer
June 15, 2024 6:05 pm

Are you bogged, Mal?

KevinM
KevinM
June 15, 2024 6:46 pm

CharlieP
June 15, 2024 6:03 pm

There is a long undersea tunnel between Hokkaido and Honshu in Japan. Confronted by “bad” ground in 1988, the tunnellers abandoned their boring machine and built the tunnel using the drill and blast method.

Most, if not all, of the Snowy 1 tunnels were built this way.

Funny you should say that, that is exactly what I was reminded of, all those eastern European migrants who worked on it with drills, dynamite, picks and shovels made it happen.
Not to forget the machinery they used as well of course, but nothing on this scale.

And on time and within budget.

Roger
Roger
June 15, 2024 6:54 pm

Meanwhile, where’s Malcolm?

Oh, yes…touting for government subsidies for pumped hydro on properties he owns in the Hunter.

The renewables business plan in a nutshell:

Socialise the capital cost, privatise the profits.

Johnjjj
Johnjjj
June 15, 2024 7:51 pm

Florence Turnbull. It has a ring to it

thefrollickingmole
thefrollickingmole
June 15, 2024 8:06 pm

Still look at how many people have lost their jobs, pensions and houses for the terrible decisions!!

Why there must be untold numbers.
So untold you cant find any.

KevinM
KevinM
June 16, 2024 6:52 am

thefrollickingmole
June 15, 2024 8:06 pm

Still look at how many people have lost their jobs, pensions and houses for the terrible decisions!!

Why there must be untold numbers.

So untold you cant find any.

I have to say I have no idea what you are talking about.
As the saying goes, please explain.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
June 16, 2024 7:31 am

Totally obvious ROFL of the day.

Some experts doubt the government will reach its 82% renewables target by 2030 (Sky News, 15 Jun)

The Clean Energy Investor Group believes the federal government will fail to meet its target of 82 per cent renewables by 2030.

The Group says the failed effort is due to a slower-than-expected rollout of major renewable energy and electricity transmission upgrades.

They say the country’s coal power stations may need to stay online longer to ensure energy needs are met.

No 82% renewbulls by 2030 only 5½ years away? Ya don’t say? That’s amazingly amazing! That’s experts for you, what would we be without experts?

Meanwhile Blackout Bowen has has added some new buzzwords to his collection of cliches.

Chris Bowen hits out against ‘misinformation’ as he confirms new offshore wind zone from Wombarra to Kiama in the Illawarra (Sky News, 15 Jun)

“We have listened to community concerns. Many, many submissions, many concerns raised. We’ve sorted through legitimate issues, legitimate concerns that have been raised on behalf of the community.

“We’ve sorted out misinformation and disinformation. And I have declared a zone which is smaller than that originally proposed, and further away from the coast.”

Well we’ll see about that misinformation-and-disinformation™ when dead humpback whales start washing up on Sydney beaches, since you are building the wretched windmills right on their migration route.

On the other hand the thing may never get built since offshore wind is crashing all over the world due to catastrophic cost blowouts.

Jock
Jock
June 16, 2024 9:07 am

BoN
I saw the new areas for the Illawarra offshore area on TV. They seem to be about 40% less than before. Yet the area is further out I think. Is that closer to the shelf? Bowen saws the area will generate 3GW. In his dreams. Offshore wind is better but the conditions are more extreme. I would bet 50% of nominal. Cost? There is the real rub. I would bet at least $5-6b per GW. Not sure that will cover all the costs of bringing the power onshore. And the grafters will want the grid to pick up the cost of connection. How long will they last? Will they be able to sell the power at a reasonable cost? Will the grafters be forced to fund removal when the “farm” is past it? Ha ha. That will be socialised.
All this could be covered by a nuclear plant or HELE. Producing over 95% of nominal. 24/7. We live in a dysfunctional society.

Bruce of Newcastle
Bruce of Newcastle
June 16, 2024 10:29 am

Cost? There is the real rub.

Yeah, deeper water will make it more costly also.

Whale deaths seem to be especially related to the sinking of the foundations, plus the geotech surveys in preparation. There’re some suggestions that the operating windmills are bad also due to infrasound.

But, yes, by acceding to community pressure Bowen has increased the capital cost per GWh by a lot, and that has been disastrous for offshore wind projects everywhere. Quite a few companies bid for and bought rights off of the US East Coast, then handed them back to the government since the numbers just didn’t make any sense. They cut their losses and vamooshed.

Which says all you need to know about the real cost of offshore wind generated electricity. By far the highest cost in c/kWh despite what Bowen likes to claim.

Davey Boy
Davey Boy
June 16, 2024 11:01 am

Whenever I hear the name ‘Florence’ for some reason Jasper Carrot’s 1975 routine springs to mind

https://youtu.be/fCaeCPpsXV8?si=oo_yKYGQIJkE2NWj&t=111

It’s evident that many Dougalls, Zebadees and Dylans run this country.

BobtheBoozer
BobtheBoozer
June 16, 2024 11:42 am

This whole episode needs a Royal Commission of Investigation with the rights to impose gaol sentences and fines up to the wazoo.
As an exercise in political irresponsibility and financial malfeasance, it surpasses anything in Australian economic history.

Miltonf
Miltonf
June 16, 2024 3:14 pm

Bowen really is an evil little shite. To think people actually vote for that garbage.

Well-Informed
Well-Informed
June 17, 2024 6:02 am

Three years ago I explained on this blog what the problems had to be….would be. Tantangara and Gooandra are extremely variable, and fractured / inconsistent geological areas. There are also extensive pockets of asbestos-bearing rock throughout. This all increases cost DRAMATICALLY. Clough went bust because of all these probs,,,about 18-20 months ago. When the ACT was giving serious thought to a Tantangara-Cotter tunnel following the 2003 fires (for water security) the geology forced THEM to throw in the towel FFS.
ECONOMICALLY the entire plan / scam relies on very cheap (free?) renewable electricity being generated by day to then pump the released-from-Tantangara-into-Talbingo / Blowering via the Lob’s Hole Power Station-water…back up to Tantangara Reservoir, while at the same time DEMANDING millions of EVs be put on the roads to make that renewable electricity DISAPPEAR into EVS. All a DELIBERATE money laundering chimera from Day One.

duncanm
duncanm
June 17, 2024 11:44 am

Snowy Hydro scheme (the real one) broke tunnelling records.
1963: 165m of hard rock in a week.

At what point do we leave Florence down there and turn it into a tourist attraction?

duncanm
duncanm
June 17, 2024 11:48 am

Illawarra wind is still on the shelf.. looks to be right on the edge.

2dogs
2dogs
June 18, 2024 6:44 am

Why do they use tunnel boring machines like Florence instead of a continuous miner? These tunnel boring machines cost 5 times as much and have no resale value when the project is finished.

another ian
another ian
June 18, 2024 10:08 am

What fuel powers Florence?

Whether diesel or electric (a 15 km power cord?) think of the fuel saving going on

KevinM
KevinM
June 18, 2024 10:19 pm

2dogs
June 18, 2024 6:44 am

Why do they use tunnel boring machines like Florence instead of a continuous miner?

Size of the hole they cut. Different design for different roles.

Jeremy
Jeremy
June 19, 2024 9:34 pm

If any engineers are on line, i would like clarification.
i was told years ago that the tunneling machine developed by the MMBW to drill the main western sewer line was anble to drill through rock and mud and was so good that we sold the design to the Seiss and Germans.
is that true? And why can’t we get that going again?

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