Wiggins Island Coal Terminal

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Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET) is a new coal export terminal at the Port of Gladstone in Queensland, Australia. It opened in April 2015, after three years of construction.[1]

WICET has applied to increase the port's initial operating capacity of 27 million tonnes to 84 million tonnes.[2] However, as of end-2017 the terminal was facing nearly US$4 billion in debt and a potential takeover by Aurizon and Macquarie Capital.[3]

Location

The Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal (WICET) is located at Golding Point, to the west of the existing RG Tanna Coal Terminal, and forms part of the existing Port of Gladstone. The offshore wharf and loading facilities are situated north of Wiggins Island, adjacent to the Targinie Channel. The rail unloading facilities are located immediately south of the North Coast Line (NCL) and are connected to the Golding Point stockyard via a 5.6km long overland conveyor.

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Project Details

  • Sponsor: Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal Pty Ltd
  • Parent companies: Aquila Resources, Glencore, New Hope Group, Wesfarmers Curragh, Yancoal
  • Location: Gladstone, Queensland, Australia
  • Annual Coal Capacity (Tonnes): 27 million (operating 2015)
  • Additional Proposed Annual Capacity (Tonnes): 57 million
  • Status: Operating, Proposed expansion
  • Start year: 2015
  • Type: Exports
  • Coal source: Surat and southern Bowen Basins, Australia
  • Cost of expansion:
  • Financing for expansion:

Background

The terminal was originally proposed in 2010 by Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal Pty Ltd, a consortium of coal companies. The US$3.3 billion project led by Glencore Xstrata (a division of Glencore International) had an anticipated completion date of 2015.[4]

At the end of September 2010 the WICET consortium announced that eight coal companies had made commitments to export 27 million tonnes of coal, which would be sufficient to enable the funding of the first stage of the terminal. The consortium stated that it expected that financing the proposal would be completed early in 2011 and shipments commence in 2014.[5]

In October 2013, Bloomberg reported that the terminal would likely only operate at half its anticipated 27 million tonne capacity due to slumping coal demand,[6] and in April 2014 energy policy news site RenewEconomy.com expressed skepticism about the project's financial viability in light of record low coal prices and a strong Australian dollar.[4]

In October 2014, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the terminal had experienced delays due to cost disputes with contractors.[7] However, John Massey, chairman of the WICET consortium, stated in November 2014 that the project would be completed in March 2015, despite these challenges.[8]

The terminal opened in April 2015 with a capacity of 27 million tonnes per annum (mtpa).[1] The Australia Coordinator-General extended the currency period for the EIS Evaluation Report for the proposed expansion to 84 mtpa from 7 January 2014 to 7 January 2016.[9]

Ownership

Upon commissioning in 2015, WICET was owned by a consortium of eight Australian and international coal companies:[10]

  1. Aquila Resources
  2. Bandanna Energy (left in 2016)
  3. Caledon Coal (left in 2017)
  4. Cockatoo Coal (left in 2016)
  5. Glencore
  6. New Hope Group
  7. Wesfarmers Curragh
  8. Yancoal

The eight partners had agreed to pay port fees for 27 million tonnes whether they shipped that volume or not - setting themselves a tonnage charge as much as five-times higher than other coal ports. In March 2016 Reuters reported that low coal prices had pushed two of the terminal's original owners - Bandanna Energy and Cockatoo Coal - into administration. With the collapse of the companies the remaining partners have to cover the cost of the unused capacity.[11] In 2017 Caledon Coal, owned by Chinese-state entity Guangdong Rising Asset Management (GRAM), was placed in administration with a debt of about US$4 billion.[12]

In November 2017 Aurizon and Macquarie Capital made a US$4 billion bid to acquire Wiggins Island Coal Export Terminal. WICET owes about US$3.9 billion in senior debt to a lending syndicate along with $US375million of junior debt.[13]

Impact on Barney Point Coal Terminal

In April 2010 it was announced that The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) authorized arrangements to transfer specified amounts of coal handling capacity from the Barney Point Coal Terminal to the proposed Wiggins Island terminal at the Port of Gladstone in Queensland. This is expected to facilitate the closure of Barney Point Coal Terminal, which has raised pollution concerns among residents of the area for a number of years.[14]

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