Card image

Introducing the Hells Gates Project

Townsville Enterprise Limited (TEL) has brought together a consortium of leading technical specialists to determine if a viable business case exists to construct a major new dam and irrigation scheme at Hells Gates in the Upper Burdekin catchment.

Summary of Features & Benefits

  • The Hells Gates Dam would be a major new source of water storage in the Upper Burdekin catchment
  • If constructed, Hells Gates Dam would open the way for irrigated agriculture and electricity generation in North Queensland
  • The Hells Gates Project is part of the long-term planning for water infrastructure for Northern Australia
  • Once finalised, this Business Case will be a comprehensive assessment of the Hells Gates Project and will provide the basis for a fully informed decision regarding its development
  • The Hells Gates Business Case will look at the technical aspects, including engineering, environmental and cultural heritage values, as well as the economic and financial feasibility of developing the Project
  • Project viability and funding for construction will be considered after delivery and assessment of the Business Case. This project is not yet funded for construction.
Download Project Overview


  • The idea of building a dam at Hells Gates is not new. It was first considered in 1938 as part of the Bradfield Scheme. Preliminary investigations in the seventies and late nineties identified the potential of the area for a dam but were not detailed studies
  • In April 2104, Townsville Enterprise Limited (TEL) produced a further study - the North and Northwest Queensland Sustainable Resource Feasibility Study
  • Further, in 2017 TEL commissioned the feasibility study which broadly considered various options for the Project considering options for project location, scale and configuration, and comparing factors such as cost, technical feasibility and environmental impacts. The feasibility study confirmed that a major dam in the Upper Burdekin could underpin a new irrigated agriculture project and that Hells Gates was the best location for this dam
  • This detailed Business Case will thoroughly investigate the preferred option identified in the 2017 feasibility study.

Technical Overview of the Proposed Project

The Hells Gates Dam and Irrigation Scheme proposes a 2,100 GL dam in the Upper Burdekin catchment, approximately 120 km north-west of Townsville, and 124 km north of Charters Towers. The surrounding region is dominated by agriculture and natural resources.

The dam would serve as water storage for a proposed 50,000 Ha irrigation scheme situated downstream of the dam wall. The project would also include a run-of-river hydro-power station, and a solar farm.

The associated irrigation scheme comprises three irrigation districts (northern, central and southern), and will utilise water for broadscale agriculture and horticulture through a set of weirs located along the Burdekin River. The weirs, associated pipelines and pump stations would be built to provide downstream water storage for each section of the irrigation districts, with water drawn for irrigation purposes.


Delivery of the Business Case

The Business Case will determine if a bankable proposal exists to support a shovel ready project and will prove if the dam and irrigation scheme is feasible from an engineering, environmental and economic perspective. It will allow Federal and State Governments, as well as private sector investors, to make informed decisions about the Scheme's cost and potential return on investment.

The Business Case seeks to:

  1. Provide more certainty regarding the technical and financial viability of the Project, as well as the associated economic, environmental and social impacts and opportunities, and
  2. Build a clear, evidence base to inform investment in the Project.


The Scope

The Business Case will provide detailed investigation of:

  • Water storage options
  • Agronomy and agribusiness development, including cropping and production potential
  • Channel and pipeline distribution networks (including pump stations)
  • The need for supporting infrastructure such as power, rail, road and port connections
  • The potential for the dam site to support a pumped hydro-power system
  • The availability and accessibility of soils suitable for large scale irrigated agriculture
  • Water demand to confirm the size and type of design needed for a potential dam
  • Indigenous interests and economic development opportunities
  • Financial and social impacts, opportunities and costs
  • Regional, state and national economic impacts
  • Ownership and investment modelling


Supporting activities will include:

  • Detailed economic analysis (by KPMG), including a cost benefit analysis (CBA) and Nett Present Value (NPV) assessment
  • Advanced concept design for the various project elements including:
    • dam and associated infrastructure including hydro-power generator, coffer dams and fish passage devices
    • irrigation infrastructure including weirs, pump stations, pipelines and diversion trenches
    • supporting facilities such as a solar farm
    • infrastructure and utility upgrades including roads, bridges, transmissions lines and substations
  • Topographic and land tenure survey/assessment
  • Geotechnical/geophysical field investigations including:
    • setting up a temporary survey camp
    • clearing access tracks and drill pads
    • geotechnical drilling
    • geophysical mapping
  • Environmental studies including:
    • cultural heritage surveys
    • flora/fauna surveys
    • soil surveys
    • surface water and ground water monitoring
    • noise monitoring
    • modelling of potential impacts, e.g. flooding and water quality
  • Socio-economic impact studies including consulting with a broad range of community stakeholders
  • Sustainability assessment.


Once these studies have been completed, they will inform the Business Case Report, which will include:

  • Statement of need / project justification
  • Advanced concept design for the various project elements
  • Cost estimate for the project including capital costs and operating costs
  • Economic analysis including market analysis and cost-benefits analysis
  • Project delivery model and implementation plan
  • Sustainability assessment
  • Environmental assessment
  • Social impact and public interest evaluations
  • Final recommendation regarding whether, or not, the project is likely to be viable.