Solid Energy

Solid Energy
Solid Energy
Type State owned enterprise
Industry mining, coal
Founded 1987, Wellington
Headquarters Christchurch, New Zealand
Key people CEO: Don Elder
Products Coal, renewable energy fuels
Revenue $689.8 million NZD (2010)[1]
Employees 772[1]

Solid Energy is the largest coal mining company in New Zealand and is a state owned enterprise of the New Zealand Government.

The company was formed from the former government department State Coal Mines. It was then established as a state owned enterprise called Coal Corporation in 1987, and renamed Solid Energy New Zealand Limited in 1997. It currently has a turnover of NZ$689.8 million and produces 3.8 million tonnes of coal annually.[1]

The company mines extensively in New Zealand's Waikato and the West Coast regions. Approximately half the coal mined is exported, as it is high value with little moisture, sulphur, or other impurities. Much of this is to China, India and Japan where it is used in the power generation and coke industries and for the manufacture of steel and other metals. Major domestic users include the Huntly Power Station and New Zealand Steel at Glenbrook.


Coal operations

Solid Energy is responsible for approximately 85% of New Zealand's coal production.[2] Annual production is around 4 million tonnes, more than half of which is exported.[3]

Solid Energy Mines
Mine Location Type Reserves, kt Production, kt pa
Huntly East Waikato Underground 2000 400
Rotowaro Waikato Opencast 14,000 1200
Stockton West Coast Opencast 16,000
Spring Creek West Coast Underground 18,000 800
Terrace West Coast Underground 700 nil
Strongman West Coast
Reddale Mine West Coast Opencast 140
New Vale Southland Opencast 250
Ohai Southland Opencast 2,000

In 2006, Solid Energy bought Newvale Coal Co Limited and acquired the Newvale opencast mine, located in the Waimumu coal field in the Southland Region.[4] The Newvale mine supplies lignite to the domestic market, including to Fonterra's Edendale dairy plant.[5] In December 2010, the Terrace mine near Reefton, which had been closed since 2009, was sold to Crusader Coal.[6] In October 2011, Solid energy opened the small opencast Reddale Mine near Reefton on the West Coast.[7]

Lignite conversion proposals

Solid Energy is exploring a number of 'lignite conversion' projects. Solid Energy considers lignite conversion “could unlock the vast potential of Southland’s multi-billion tonne lignite deposits by making them into high value products”.[8] One project is to make briquettes from lignite. A pilot briquetting plant is being considered and could be built at the former Mataura Mine site, or the New Vale Mine or the former Mataura Paper Mill. In July 2010, Solid Energy reported it had run a successful trial of briquettes with US partner GTL Energy.[9]

The other potential lignite-conversion projects are gasifying lignite to produce either urea (fertiliser) or liquid fuels.[10] Solid Energy had an agreement with Australian company, Ignite Energy Resources Pty Ltd, to develop a lignite-to-liquid plant. The technology involved had not been proved viable at a commercial scale. Solid Energy was considering the viability of a lignite-to-urea plant with Ravensdown as partner.[11]

In December 2010, Dr Jan Wright, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, issued a report, “Lignite and climate change: The high cost of low grade coal”,[12] which criticised the lignite conversion proposals for their carbon intensity, their contribution to climate change and the likelihood that they would be eligible to receive a free allocation of carbon credits under the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.[13]

Renewable energy operations

Solid Energy has invested heavily in the development of renewable energy in New Zealand, and, as such, it has three main lines:

Nature's Flame produces wood pellets for home heating. This provides smokeless fuel to meet stringent new clean air standards. Nature's Flame is the largest manufacturer of wood pellets in the Southern Hemisphere,[14] producing from three factories, located in Christchurch, Taupo and Rotorua. Nature's Flame began in 2003, when Solid Energy purchased a small wood pellet company based at Rolleston.[15]

Biodiesel NZ produces biodiesel from used vegetable oil and from oilseed rape crops. The business began with acquisition of Canterbury Biodiesel, a Christchurch based company, in 2007.[16] Production capacity was rapidly increased, initially with a target of 70 million litres a year by 2011.[14] However, production plans for biodiesel were reconsidered in the light of significant decreases in the oil price over 2008 and 2009.[17]

Switch was launched in 2008, providing renewable energy solutions for businesses and homes,specifically distributing wood pellet fires and solar hot water heating systems.[14] This incorporated Sensible Heat, a Nelson-based solar hot water heating company acquired in July 2007.[18]

Solid Energy has also applied for a resource consent for a hydro-electric power station at its Stockton Mine.[19]

Opposition groups

Concerns have been raised about the environmental performance of Solid Energy particularly at the Stockton Mine on the West Coast. In 2006, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment proposed to undertake a review of the environmental performance of the company in 2008.[20]

Solid Energy has also been criticised by the Ngawakau Riverwatch group and environmental groups and organisations such as Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, The Buller Conservation Group and the Save Happy Valley Coalition. The criticisms include carbon emissions, environmental damage and greenwashing in respect of the impacts of mining.[citation needed]

Resource consents were granted to Solid Energy for the development and operation of the Cypress mine on land near Waimangaroa.[21] This was opposed by the environmental group Save Happy Valley Campaign (SHVC). They claim that the mine will contribute to acid mine drainage, climate change and the possible extinction of a species of Powelliphanta snail.

On 27 May 2007, Sunday Star Times reported that Thompson and Clark Investigations Ltd, a security firm employed by Solid Energy, used private individuals to spy on SHVC.[22] A second spying episode was alleged involving Thompson and Clark attempting to employ another spy to obtain information from SHVC.[23] Solid Energy claimed that they had no knowledge of that instance of an attempt by Thompson and Clark to employ a spy.[24]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Annual Report 2010". Solid Energy. 27 August 2010.,468,1054,0,html/Strong-second-half-performance-turns-68-million-profit/Publications. 
  2. ^ "Coal Industry Overview". Crown Minerals. 17 December 2008. 
  3. ^ "Solid Energy's coal business". Solid Energy. 2007.,236,0,0,html/Coal. 
  4. ^ "Solid Energy bid to acquire Newvale Coal" (Press release). Commerce Commission. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 13 December 2010. 
  5. ^ Crown Minerals (18 April 2007). "Eastern and Fonterra sign contract for Clandeboye coal supply". Ministry of Economic Development. Retrieved 13 December 20103. 
  6. ^ Gibson, Neville (21 December 2010). "Solid Energy sells mothballed coal mine to new company". The National Business Review. Retrieved 16 January 2011. 
  7. ^ "New Reefton opencast mine helps ensure supply for Solid Energy South Island customers" (Press release). Solid Energy. 28 October 2011.,476,1176,0,html/New-Reefton-opencast-mine-helps-ensure-supply-for-South-Island-customers. Retrieved 30 October 2011. 
  8. ^ "Lignite Conversion". Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd. Archived from the original on 15 December 2010. Retrieved 15 December 2010. 
  9. ^ NZPA (13 July 2010). "Progress in lignite upgrade". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  10. ^ "Solid Energy to continue lignite exploration in Southland" (Press release). Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd. 12 October 2010.,468,1074,0,html/Solid-Energy-to-continue-lignite-exploration-in-Southland. Retrieved 15 December 2010. 
  11. ^ "Solid Energy secures access to upgrading technology" (Press release). Solid Energy New Zealand Ltd. 21 May 2010.,468,1039,0,html/Solid-Energy-secures-access-to-upgrading-technology. Retrieved 15 December 2010. 
  12. ^ Lignite and climate change: The high cost of low grade coal. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. 9 December 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "Lignite a bad choice for NZ". Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. 9 December 2010. Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  14. ^ a b c "Annual Report 2008". Solid Energy. 18 September 2008.,138,0,0,html/Publications. 
  15. ^ "Nature's Flame wood pellet ash organic certified". Solid Energy. 5 April 2007.,214,415,49,html/Nature-s-Flame-wood-pellet-ash-organic-certified. Retrieved 2008-02-27. 
  16. ^ "Solid Energy enters biodiesel market". Solid Energy. 9 May 2007.,214,428,49,html/Solid-Energy-enters-biodiesel-market. Retrieved 27 February 2008. 
  17. ^ Marta Steeman (14 February 2009). "Solid Energy rethinks biodiesel plans". Business Day. 
  18. ^ Wood, Alan (12 June 2007). "Coalminer buys solar heat firm". The Press. Retrieved 21 April 2008. 
  19. ^ "Stockton Hydro Scheme A Solid Energy Project". Solid Energy. 15 February 2010. Retrieved 19 April 2010. 
  20. ^ "Solid Energy's environmental management systems and performance". Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. November 2006. Retrieved 16 November 2008. 
  21. ^ "Solid Energy welcomes consent green light for Cypress coal mine". Crown Minerals. 3 June 2005. 
  22. ^ Nicky Hager; Deidre Mussen (27 May 2007). "I was paid to betray protesters". Sunday Star Times. 
  23. ^ "Private investigators still digging on West Coast". Sunday Star Times. 20 April 2008. 
  24. ^ "Statement by Solid Energy re article in today’s Sunday Times". Solid Energy. 20 April 2008.,230,723,49,html/Statement-by-Solid-Energy-re-article-in-today-s-Sunday-Times. Retrieved 21 April 2008. 

External links

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