Back to Brisbane

Friday morning two weeks ago I woke up at sunrise and started my last leg after a quick breakfast. I briefly stopped in the small town of Meandarra, but everything was still closed. So I headed on into the Braemar forest. Within the state forest a whole petrochemical exploitation and conversion complex is hidden. It feels a bit like hidden soviet bunkers in spruce forests. Nevertheless there are still gazetted roads throughout the forest, which everybody is allowed to use. Coming from the south I directly passed the headquarter from QGC (Queensland Gas Company – now a wholly owned subsidiary of Shell) with all the water processing and gas purification units for their fracking bores. They made pretty clear, already at the approach road, that they don’t want to be disturbed by visitors. Hence, I decided not to drive along the approach road until their entrance. Nevertheless the current operation is well documented on recent online maps. I just drove a bit further and then turned into Cyrpess road, which is a public gravel road and several fracking bores are located along it. So I just stopped at one of them and had a closer look. In the end it’s pretty simple, and hence pretty cheap to get the raw gas out of it. One electric pump, which is driven by an onsite gas engine (utilising the raw gas) pumps the water down one bore, whereas at a second bore the raw coal gas gets out of the soil. Free lunch for the gas company. Throughout the whole forest is a complete network of different kinds of low pressure gas and water pipelines. All the water and raw gas is eventually processed at the QGC headquarters and the resulting natural gas is finally compressed and pumped into the transmission pipeline. I continued my drive along Grahams Road, which exhibits every several hundred metres another fracking bore. All running autonomous. I’ve seen some QGC pick-up’s on the sealed road, which I supposed they went for some maintainance work to one of the fracking bores. I then stopped at the Braemar power station, which consists of two times three open cycle gas turbines. The first three gas turbines were delivered by Alstom as it was clearly visible written at the outside. I could directly park infront of the fence and just walk along them in order to take some photos. In the end it’s the same as with the nuclear power stations in Philippsburg and Obrigheim, where a public bicycle path just leads along the fence. Hence, no big deal at all. On the other side of Grahams Road is the large scale Darling Downs solar farm. Unfortunately, the cattle gate was locked, but it was only stated “close the gate”. Such kind of note is typical for cattle gates throughout the outback. So I just parked my vehicle next to it, and walked for about 15 min along the gravel road which eventually lead me to the fenced solar farm. Contrary to the other large scale solar farms, this one had no single tracking axis, instead the solar panels where orientated in northern direction. This setup is for sure cheaper in installation and maintainance costs, but as the orientation is suboptimal during the day (except for noon), the electricity production is also less than with a single tracking axis. A tracking axis is typically aligned in North-South direction, so that the solar panels change their inclination from East to West during the day. When I was walking along the fence I took my photos and past some workers, which digged a hole. I was greeting them friendly from the distance before I started to walk back. Just shortly before I returned to my car, I saw from about hundred metres distance that three pick-ups parked next to my car, and one of them took a photo from it. Then they opened the gate and one of the cars stopped in front of me. An old bloke jumped out of the car and accused me of trespassing his land. I was confused and said, that I was just walking along a gravel road. He said that this is private land, but there was no sign at the cattle gate (it’s a cattle gate, not a fence, just to remember), that this gravel road is private property. There was only a note that you should close the gate, which is just usual for me, as I travelled for thousand of kilometres along gravel roads in the outback. Nevertheless, Ross, the manager of Wambo Feedlot, insisted to see my driver license. I refused to give this data to him, and was just walking away to my car. But he and his two blokes, for sure, followed me with their three pick-ups. Ross tried to threaten me, and said, if I try to drive away, one of his blokes will drive into the rear of my car. Well, in my understanding that’s coercion and also illegal in Australia. But anyway, I don’t believe they would have done that, because I would need to call the police in that case. So, if he really wanted to blame me for trespassing, he would need to call the police anyway, but he didn’t want to do so. My main issue was, that I needed to return my car in four hours in Brisbane, and I still had to drive more than 300 km. Additionally, if I don’t give them my driver license, then they would contact the rental company in order to get the data, but that might result in additional costs for me. In order to circumvent that, I finally accepted that he takes a photo of my driver license. In the end I had more trouble here than during my visit at the border to North Korea in Tumen. If I would really done some kind of reconnaissance, I wouldn’t use a highly visible rental vehicle, and park that on the main road on a working day, and greeting some blokes digging a whole. I guess the latter called some one, and caused all that trouble. One of his blokes followed me for a few kilometres to make sure, I’m definitely leaving the scene. I mean I could use my back mirror, and if I would be seriously interested in some kind of attack, I would also retreat first, change my camouflage, collect all available force, before I launch a new attack. But actually due to that stupid discussion, I was pretty much on the hurry. Hence, I drove directly to Toowoomba (and not because there was a bloke in a pickup behind me), crossed through the town in order to avoid any toll for the bypass highway. When leaving Toowoomba, I finally descended pretty steep from the great dividing range. There was a nice lookut, but I definitely needed to make sure, that I’ll be back in Brisbane after two months travelling around Queensland.

This branchline stops only in Meandarra because of the grain storage
Getting into the Braemar forest
That’s the first fracking bore I’ve seen so far…
…and it’s pretty easy, how they get the gas out of the soil. No wonder fracking gas and oil is that cheap…and dirty.
Each bore is connected to the low pressure gas and water network
Along Grahams Road is the high pressure natural gas pipeline, which eventually leads directly…
…to the Braemar power station, consisting of in total 6 open cycle gas turbines.
Interestingly there’s even some flaring necessary directly at the fracking bore
The Darling Downs solar farm covers a huge area…
…the solar panels are fixed, and connected to the inverters and transformator in the containers.
Ross and his two blokes tried to block my car.
There was mainly agricultural fields on the way to Toowoomba, and no longer cattle stations, like in the outback
On my way back from the rental company, I passed this bus with a natural gas engine 😆
Travelling around Queensland in the last two months.
My travels across Australia in the last 8 months

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