Air Quality

The Port of Brisbane is a diverse multi cargo port, which handles import and export products including containers, motor vehicles, general cargo and wet and dry bulk commodities.

When being handled some bulk commodities, such as coal and agriculture, can cause localised dust issues and impact on ambient air quality. Prevailing wind conditions can result in dust impacting on neighbouring sensitivity receptors. The Port of Brisbane uses several effective mitigation measures to minimise such impacts.

Refer to the quick links below for related topics of interest or scroll down the page for more information.

Dust– what is it and what does it contain?
Mitigation Measures
Monitoring Programs
QLD Bulk Handling - Coal Terminal
Coal Dust Management Plan
Ensuring QLD Government monitors compliance

Dust – what is it and what does it contain?

Dust is a common component of particulate matter (PM) in air. PM is characterised by particle size and composition. PM ranges in size from 0.005μm to 100μm and the particles are typically categorised into two size classes:

  • PM10 coarse particulate matter (10μm – 2.5μm in aerodynamic diameter)
  • PM2.5 fine particulate matter (<2.5 – 0.1μm in aerodynamic diameter)

About PM10 particles
The handling of bulk material during periods of wind erosion of bare surfaces, can result in dust levels in the coarse PM10 range. Particles of this size are primarily derived from suspension or re-suspension of dust, soil, and other material from roads, farming, mining, and dust storms. These particles can also include sea salt, pollen, mould, and spores.

About PM2.5 particles
These particles are primarily is derived from direct impacts from combustion processes, such as petrol and diesel vehicles, wood burning, coal burning for power generation, and industrial activities such as smelters, cement plants, paper mills, and steel mills. The movement of trucks, trains and ships also results in combustion emissions which are found in fine particulate matter at this level.

For a relative comparison of PM sizes hover over Figure 1a which compares particulate matter with fine beach sand and a human hair (image courtesy of the US EPA).

Figure 1b illustrates where the dust from various sources fits in the PM range.

Figure 1a

Figure 1b


Mitigation Measures

Port stakeholders use a range of mitigation and monitoring practices to minimise the emission of dust from port activities.

When handling bulk products that have the potential to create dust issues mitigation measures include:

  • monitoring and maintenance of product moisture
  • enclosed storage and loading/unloading infrastructure
  • proactive management practices such as covering and regular wetting down of exposed stockpiles where possible.

Port operations and dust

PBPL’s strict requirements for the planning and development of the port mitigate activities that have the potential to create dust, such as, construction activities, traffic movements on unsealed areas and land reclamation activities. The development and implementation of Environmental Management Plans (EMPs) ensure that dust emissions from this kind of activity is minimised wherever possible.

Operationally, the Port of Brisbane handles approximately 50% of Queensland’s agricultural exports including grains, cereals and beef and between 40% to 50% of all trade through the port travels to, or emanates from, Toowoomba or western QLD. Annually, more than 95% of containerised product is transported to the port by trucks, resulting in more than 2.5 million truck movements to and from the port.

PBPL has little influence over the emissions produced by the combustion associated with transport modes such as trucks, trains and ships accessing the port, however, the port has implemented indirect management techniques that foster transport efficiencies, which include:

  • improving roads and access to the port
  • effectively managing shipping movements
  • encouraging multi-modal transport alternatives

PBPL has also implemented better efficiencies on its own infrastructure, particularly the Brisbane dredge, which resulted in reduced fuel consumption and emissions.

Monitoring Program

Significant air quality monitoring has been undertaken in and around the Port of Brisbane since 1999. Programs have included both the monitoring of ambient concentrations of dust, while targeted monitoring programs investigate, for example, impacts on motor vehicle storage at the port.. Monitoring methodologies are varied and range from dust deposition through to the measurement of gases.

To ensure the port’s air quality is being effectively monitored and managed, various programs have been implemented at the port, including: 

  • Real-time dust monitoring program

In June 2013, PBPL commenced real-time dust monitoring at three locations within the port precinct, as identified by red dots in the monitoring map.

The aim of this monitoring program is to determine whether dust from the Port of Brisbane is impacting neighbouring areas. Monitoring involves real time collection of particulate matter (PM10) at each location. Each monitoring device is also configured to capture particulate matter readings at PM2.5 levels and these are conducted periodically throughout the year, particularly during known periods of high winds.
A 24 hour average for each site is calculated and compared against the Air Quality National Environmental Protection Measure (NEPM) guideline value of 50μg/m3.

In the event of an exceedance, the following measures would be taken by the Port of Brisbane:

  • Undertake specific analysis of all data to determine peak periods
  • Examine wind directions and meteorological conditions for that day
  • Compare the results against upwind sites.

Results of this monitoring are captured in Figure 1c (Bingera Drive monitoring station), 1d (Operations Base monitoring station) and 1e (Osprey Drive monitoring station). Please note that the Osprey Drive monitoring station has been out for repair and therefore no data has been available.

Long term dust monitoring program

This program incorporated the use of dust deposition gauges to analyse levels and sources of dust at the port. This program was undertaken from November 2003 to May 2011 and demonstrated that the dust deposition measured at the port is generally within guideline values. Exceedences of dust deposition levels were occasionally recorded only when construction activity was taking place in close proximity to the monitoring locations.

  • Analysis of fallout dust for motor vehicle storage facilities

Two programs were undertaken from 2001 to 2003, and in 2007, to determine the impact of atmospheric deposition on motor vehicles stored at the port through the study of dust deposition on vehicle surfaces.

These programs found that atmospheric deposition has little impact on motor vehicles stored at the port. Results indicated that general road dust had the biggest impact, contributing up to 70% of dust deposited on motor vehicles.

Click on the image to view graph

  • Roadside monitoring study

A study of roadside dust emissions was undertaken from 2006 to 2008 to ascertain the impact of road transport corridors on air quality. This study showed that there was no indication of a prominent source of fine dust particles in the port activities source-sector. 

  • Fine Particle Emissions Monitoring

A study was undertaken in 2012 to determine the levels of fine fraction dust (PM2.5) at the Port of Brisbane. This study found that there were localised elevated PM2.5 levels at the port, primarily associated with truck movements, but provided no evidence of coal dust particles.

The Port of Brisbane is considering a follow up study on fine fraction dust to be conducted in late 2013 or early 2014. 

QLD Bulk Handling - Coal Terminal

The Queensland Bulk Handling (QBH) coal terminal has been operating at the Port of Brisbane for 30 years and is committed to responsibly managing its local environment.

QBH meets all conditions under the relevant QLD Government environmental legislation, including the Environmental Protection Act 1994, and proactively undertakes dust deposition monitoring at sites located on the facility’s boundary and within the port precinct, as depicted by the blue dots on the monitoring map.

The monitoring site on the southern boundary provides the best location for assessing whether dust is impacting on the Wynnum community to the south.

QBH has provided PBPL with monthly monitoring data since April 2009 and these results indicate that there is minimal dust from the facility.

QBH uses several operational management controls to ensure dust is minimised. These include:

  • Only accepting coal at the QBH terminal that has been washed or has a moisture content  that ensures coal dust is minimised.
  • Monitoring  dust  from coal train unloading activity for the duration of that activity
  • Immediately halting unloading activity if undue levels of dust are detected, QBH contacts the relevant collier to advise them of the issue and ceases unloading until the collier implements remedial actions
  • In excess of 20 sprinklers installed on overhead gantries and stackers, and wetting down of stockpile surfaces during conditions that promote coal dust generation.
  • Water cart availability on-site for dust management
  • Planning of coal unloading activity to avoid high wind conditions
  • Minimising bulldozer movements to prevent excessive coal stockpile disturbance
  • Maintaining fully enclosed elevated coal conveyors
  • Using CCTV to monitor the tops of coal wagons to identify any residual coal.


Coal Dust Management Plan

Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd (PBPL) has released a Coal Dust Management Plan as part its overall responsibility to limit the port’s operational and development impacts on the surrounding environment.

This Coal Dust Management Plan outlines the ways in which PBPL undertakes monitoring and management of coal dust at the Port of Brisbane; a long term commitment that will ensure effective management in advance of trade growth.

The Plan identifies potential coal dust migration sources and establishes mechanisms for handling all commodities on the port to ensure they remain within guideline standards specified in the Environmental Protection (Air) Policy 2008. The Plan also outlines mitigation and minimisation measures to be enforced and provides specific details on ongoing air quality monitoring programs undertaken by both PBPL and Queensland Bulk Handling, the operator of the Port’s coal terminal.

Ensuring QLD Government monitors compliance

In addition to the air quality monitoring undertaken at the Port of Brisbane, the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (DEHP) undertakes air quality monitoring at a number of sites throughout Brisbane (

The monitoring site at Wynnum North is in close proximity to the Port of Brisbane and can be used to assess the air quality bordering port operations and neighbouring suburbs. Historically results from this monitoring station indicate that dust levels are generally within guideline and have negligible impact on neighbouring suburbs.

For further information please contact us on 07 3258 4888.