According to the Conservation Council of Western Australia (CCWA), Chevron is failing to address ongoing pollution problems at its Gorgon LNG facility on Barrow Island, while Environment Minister Stephen Dawson has not placed limits on the amount of carbon pollution that the company can release, or required the company to provide real-time reports on its carbon pollution injection system.
CCWA Director, Piers Verstegen, said it was “an international embarrassment” that WA’s biggest polluter is allowed to continue operating without any enforceable pollution limits, and that the public is kept in the dark about the company’s pollution control efforts.
“This is a textbook case of regulatory capture where Chevron have been allowed to use their power and influence to maintain a complacent regulator, and the responsible Minister has done nothing substantive to correct the situation,” Mr Verstegen said.
“Some outlets have reported that Minister Dawson has strengthened the licence by requiring a review of conditions after 10 years rather than the 20-year period originally granted. The shortening of the licence period to trigger a review of the licence after a decade is really the absolute minimum improvement that could possibly be made.”
Mr Verstegen said Chevron’s carbon capture system is failing, which is leading to the release of millions of tonnes of carbon pollution.
On 12 January 2020, it was revealed through Freedom of Information requests by independent media outlet Boiling Cold that the system to capture and inject carbon pollution underground at the Barrow Island facility has been curtailed only months after its delayed start, because of new problems with the carbon injection wells.
Previous estimates suggest that delays and technical issues have resulted in at least seven million tonnes of additional pollution being released.
“The lack of disclosure of and public reporting in this licence allows Chevron and others in the oil and gas industry to maintain the claim that carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be a viable solution to their pollution problems,” said Mr Verstegen.
“In reality, the world-first CCS facility on Barrow Islands has been plagued with technical problems, mismanagement, and regulatory failure from the very beginning.”
Mr Verstegen said the original approval for the Gorgon facility requires Chevron to provide alternative offsets for carbon emissions that the company is unable to bury underground, however no action has been taken to enforce these conditions or require the company to provide alternative offsets.
He also said hundreds of jobs for West Australians could be created offsetting the carbon pollution such as tree planting, carbon farming, renewable energy and other initiatives.
“Instead those jobs are being denied and millions of tonnes of pollution are being released because our State Government is afraid of taking any effective regulatory action against WA’s biggest polluter.”
About the Gorgon Project
The Gorgon Project is located on Barrow Island, around 60 kilometres off the northwest coast of Western Australia. It includes a three-train, 15.6 million tonne per annum LNG facility and a domestic gas plant with the capacity to supply 300 terajoules of gas per day to Western Australia.
The first LNG cargo departed Barrow Island on 21 March 2016. Domestic gas supply to the Western Australian market commenced in December 2016.
The Gorgon Project is operated by Chevron Australia and is a joint venture of the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron (47.3 per cent), ExxonMobil (25 per cent), Shell (25 per cent), Osaka Gas (1.25 per cent), Tokyo Gas (1 per cent) and JERA (0.417 per cent).
About the Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection Project
The Gorgon Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Injection Project involves the design, construction and operation of facilities to store reservoir CO2 into a deep reservoir unit, known as the Dupuy Formation, more than two kilometres beneath Barrow Island.
Once operating at full capacity, this project was estimated to inject between 3.4 and 4 million tonnes of CO2 a year. Global greenhouse gas emission over the life of the project are anticipated to reduce by approximately 100 million tonnes.
The Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection Project is believed to be the largest greenhouse gas mitigation project undertaken by industry globally.
The injection project is an integral component of the Gorgon Project. It is estimated to reduce emissions from that project by approximately 40 per cent.
The Australian Government committed $60 million to the Gorgon Carbon Dioxide Injection Project as part of the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund.