Features, Oil & Gas Leaks

Chevron accused of mismanaging carbon capture program

Picture: A diagram from Chevron’s Gorgon fact sheet. The sheet omits mention of carbon capture and storage failure, yet boasts of a $60 million federal government subsidy. It says, “The CO2 Injection Project is the largest of its kind in the world, and represents the largest greenhouse gas abatement project undertaken by industry.”

Fossil Fool Bulletin 2.31 • 12 July 2019

Chevron has deliberately mismanaged the carbon sequestration program it promised in order to get approval for its Gorgon LNG development, according to the Conservation Council of WA.

The company’s geosequestration program, intended to capture and store underground around 40% of the direct carbon pollution from the LNG plant, has not yet been brought online, despite promises from the gas giant that they were working to fix the many issues plaguing the capture mechanism.

Documents released this week by the Department of Environment and Regulation showed that Chevron has only made an application to operate the facility in May of this year, despite having planned for carbon storage to begin in the first half of 2017.

It was subsequently granted an extension by the environment minister to early 2019. The program also received $60 million in funding from the Federal Government.

Chevron’s WA operations produce the equivalent pollution of five coal fired power stations every year, making the company the state’s biggest polluter by far.

Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) Director Piers Verstegen said that the geosequestration project has been fundamentally mismanaged from the outset.

“Despite Chevron’s claims that they have been making best endeavours to get geosequestration working for almost two years, they had not, until now, taken even the most basic step in seeking an operating license.

No intention of meeting target

“This is not the kind of oversight that a company the size of Chevron with its team of lawyers would make. It shows that Chevron had no intention to get the plant operating by the required start time, and their claims have been baseless because they had not even taken the first step in the process.

“What all this shows is that the geosequestration project has been fundamentally mishandled from the beginning.

“We are not just talking about technical problems here.

“The most basic fundamentals of environmental compliance have not been adhered to by Chevron, with the likely result being much longer delays and millions of tonnes of additional carbon pollution.

“It is hard to reach any other conclusion than this bungled handling has been deliberate on the part of Chevron, and enabled by a government and regulator unwilling to hold the company to account, despite serious harm to the environment and exposure of workers to pollution.

“According to those conditions, Chevron is required to provide alternative offsets like planting trees or renewable energy if the geosequestration does not work. But instead, the State Government is continuing to allow this company to string us along.

“It’s not only embarrassing, but it is exposing workers to toxic emissions and costing the state hundreds of jobs for carbon farmers, renewable energy installers, and other workers who could be employed right now offsetting Chevron’s pollution.

$32 million profit every day

“Chevron has claimed its Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects are making the company $32 million dollars per day in clear profits, while the company pays no tax and no royalties for the gas it exports.

“Offsetting the pollution from these operations by investing in tree planting, renewable energy, and carbon farming would cost the company less than 2% of these profits and deliver thousands of new jobs for West Australians.

“This is the latest sorry chapter in an ongoing delaying exercise by Chevron, aided by a lack of action by the government to make the company comply with its conditions.

“It’s time this embarrassing situation is put to an end. Chevron must immediately provide alternative offsets for its pollution and stop the release of toxic emissions on Barrow Island. If it cannot comply with its conditions, the license for the LNG project should be suspended.”

Gorgon-tuan problems

Labelling Chevron’s project as a ‘Gorgon-tuan problem’, The Australia Institute said, “Despite being widely lauded as a success story for carbon capture and storage (CCS), the Gorgon LNG Project has failed to sequester CO2 as promised over its first two years.

“This has led to millions of tonnes of additional emissions, likely at least half as large as the increase in national emissions last year.

“Chevron will not however face a penalty for this. It does not face penalties for breaching its Western Australian approval, and the WA government remains ambiguous about when it would require Chevron to purchase offsets.

“[Chevron] has set an emissions limit for itself under the [government]safeguard mechanism that does not include operational CCS.”

Mishaps at Gorgon this year alone include:

Pipeline corroded

In March, Chevron further delayed the underground storage of carbon dioxide from the Gorgon LNG project in the Pilbara by up to nine months because of continuing technical problems.

Start-up checks in 2017 found leaking and the risk of corrosion in the pipeline that will take CO2 from the LNG plant to the injection wells.

• West Australian, March 6

Workers exposed to BTEX chemicals

As well as carbon dioxide, Chevron had also intended to inject underground toxic chemicals including BTEX chemicals – benzene (a known carcinogen), toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene – and mercury.

Instead, along with the carbon dioxide it has vented into the atmosphere it has also been venting vapours containing 300 parts per million BTEX and 13,000 micrograms of mercury per cubic metre.

The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation flagged “health and safety concerns”. The department granted a 12-month approval to Chevron’s application to implement a temporary measure: to burn, or ‘flare’, these toxic substances until the carbon injection system is ready – estimated in the document at the second quarter of 2020.

This does not reduce the overall quantity of mercury being released as elemental mercury cannot be burnt.

In addition, two separate safety incidents at Gorgon occurred in April, potentially exposing workers to chemicals.

One involved a vent stack releasing mercury and caused a section of the project to be shut down for several days.

The second involved one of the three ‘trains’ transporting gas at the plant, which was accidentally shut down and vented gas.

• Sydney Morning Herald, April 18

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