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Hunter Expressway: yet another peak oil ignorant project

Federal Transport Minister Albanese (17/2/2010): “We’re about to start the $1.65 billion Hunter Expressway”

This will get stuck in the next oil price shock:

Barclays and Bank of America see looming oil crunch

Well, the 1st oil crunch since crude oil started to peak in 2005 was in 2008:

1st phase of peak oil caused demand destruction in OECD countries of around 5 mb/d

There are 3 planning levels of peak oil ignorance in the documentation on the Hunter Freeway:

Level 1:

Lower Hunter Transport Needs Study (Hyder study, November 2008)

“Traffic is projected to grow on the New England Highway corridor between 3.4 percent and 4.1 percent per annum”

“By 2031, the demand for road freight movements within the Hunter is forecast to increase by over 30 percent, and through truck traffic by a factor of around 2.5″

“A key driver of change in the regional freight market is the NSW Ports Growth Plan, which nominates Newcastle as the location of growth in the import/export container trade once Port Botany’s capacity is exceeded. This could occur as early as 2017. Container trade would need to commence well in advance of this date to ensure that all critical components of the supply chain were in place”

“The FHH (Freight Hub Hunter) study stated that by 2021 it is possible that 230,000 TEU could move through Newcastle. This number is forecast to grow to around 750,000 TEU by 2031 by which time Newcastle will be taking up all the growth in the NSW container market, Port Botany having reached capacity.”

Let’s plot Geoscience Australia’s crude and condensate production from this submission

into the traffic forecast of the Lower Hunter Transport Needs study (page 38) : hunter_vkt_2031_vs_australian_oil_production

This is very optimistic because only 5% of condensate can be used in Australian refineries, so here is a graph showing crude and condensate separately:


The fuel in this huge gap should come from oil imports. But global oil export markets are in decline. See my post:

Half of post 2005 net oil exports from top 5 exporters will be gone by 2013

Geologist Jeff Brown, who advises US clients how to get the last drop of oil out of their stripper wells, calculates:

Based on Sam’s best case projection for the (2005) top five and based on the 2005-2008 rate of increase in net oil imports into Chindia, it appears that Chindia would be consuming 100% of net oil exports from Saudi Arabia, Russia, Norway, Iran and the UAE some time around 2018, eight years from now.

The actual net oil exports since 1981 are depicted in the 2nd graph of this post, they peaked in 2005:

Australia in last quarter of its oil age

This is the basic flaw in the planning methodology (Appendix B) of the Hyder study: a fuel availability analysis is missing:


One draft of such an analysis can be found here:

Terms of Reference for Urban Transport under Severe Carbon Constraints

Make no mistake, there is really nothing which can replace oil:

Diminishing Returns of Fossil Fuel Energy Invested

Level 2

Sydney-Brisbane Corridor Strategy 2007
BTRE traffic forecasts to 2025 are for significant increases along the length of the Hunter Valley and to Newcastle. Other forecasts for traffic volumes in 2026 at key points along the inland route include:
• Sydney–Newcastle (to the Hawkesbury River Bridge) traffic levels are projected to reach 110,000 vehicles a day;
• between Newcastle and Maitland traffic levels are projected to reach about 59,000 vehicles a day; and
• between Maitland and Singleton traffic levels are projected to reach about 35,000 vehicles a day.

Level 3

BTRE works on their old models (e.g. TRANSCAD, RIAM etc into which they have of course invested a lot of work in the past – written in C++) which are no longer valid after peak oil

Working paper 35: Roads 2020, 1997

Assuming 3% pa growth for commercial vehicles, a figure obtained from the 1994 National Transport Planning Task-force (that would be level 4)
Other growth rates assumed at 2% (page 23)

Working Paper 66 – Demand Projections for Auslink Non-Urban Corridors: Methodology and Projections. (Note this was written AFTER the flawed WP 61 on peak oil critiqued here:
Feb 2006

Model Ozpass The Appendix contains some screen shots of this software. In order to adapt the model to peak oil, all input data tables would have to be changed – a tremendous job. If the software does not provide for varying growth rates – and even for decline rates – the code would have to be modified.
Model Freightsim. This can run in batch file mode


“The Australian Treasury (2002) GDP growth projections imply slowing annual GDP growth over the period to 2025, with annual average GDP growth of 2.6 per cent per annum between 1999 and 2025.”

” Household incomes, proxied by growth in average weekly earnings (AWE), are projected to grow by 1.4 per cent per annum between 1999 and 2025, consistent with historical growth in AWE over the thirty years to 2001″

“Real freight transport costs are projected to decline by 0.5 per cent per annum over the projection period”

“International visitors are assumed to grow by 9 per cent per annum in 1999–2000 declining linearly to 3.9 per cent per annum in 2025.”

“Passenger travel projections
These assumptions imply growth in total inter-regional passenger trips of 2.6 per cent per annum between 1999 and 2025. Air travel is projected to grow most strongly, by 3.9 per cent per annum. Long-distance car trips, not part of a regular commute to work, are projected to grow 2.6 per cent per annum between 1999 and 2025. Bus trips are projected to grow by 1.7 per cent per annum, boosted by foreign tourist visitors who tour Queensland and the Northern Territory by coach. Rail trips are projected to grow by 0.8 per cent per annum between 1999 and 2025.”

“The aggregate FreightSim inter-regional freight task projections imply growth in the total domestic freight task, measured in tonnes moved, of 2.75 per cent per annum over the period 1999 to 2025. Total road freight tonnages are projected to grow by 3.0 per cent per annum and total rail freight tonnages are projected to grow by 2.4 per cent per annum over the period 1999 to 2025. The coastal shipping freight task is projected to grow by approximately 1.5 per cent per annum between 1999 and 2025. Air freight is projected to grow by 6.1 per cent per annum, albeit from a very low base.”



Commodity production forecast 1999-2025: coal doubles, oil products flat (then how will the other commodities grow) and the number of sheep – premier export commodity in food for oil barter deals – are not faring well.

Whats’ more, the Hunter Freeway is clearly embedded in a coal expansion strategy, in contrast to the government’s policy to reduce CO2 emissions as can be seen from the cover page of the Hyder study:


As if we could continue with coal:
James Hansen: Storms of My Grandchildren

The storms have already started now.

Feb 28th 2010, Deadly Atlantic storm ‘Xynthia’ batters Western Europe

Our job is to REMOVE CO2 from the atmosphere before our oceans warm up even further. Who will get the heat out of the oceans? The coal industry?

Conclusion: The Hunter Freeway is not the right project. This is what should be done:

Electric Rail crash program: jobs for public transport

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