By Eve Sinton
Chevron Australia and the Gorgon Joint Venture participants this week announced the safe startup and operation of the carbon dioxide injection system at the Chevron-led Gorgon natural gas facility on Barrow Island, off the northwest coast of Western Australia.
Chevron Australia managing director Al Williams said, “We are pleased to reach the first milestone of safely starting the operation of the Gorgon carbon dioxide injection system, one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas mitigation projects ever undertaken by industry.”
Once fully operational, the carbon dioxide injection facility will reduce Gorgon’s greenhouse gas emissions by about 40 percent, or more than 100 million tonnes over the life of the injection project.
The underwater gasfied emissions will be injected into a reservoir 2km under Barrow Island.
Conservation groups are calling for the company to meet its approval obligations to provide alternative offsets for the additional pollution that has been released while the geosequestration facility has been delayed, and to further offset the remaining pollution from the facility that cannot be pumped underground.
Geosequestration no silver bullet
Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) Director Piers Verstegen said the geosequestration was not a silver bullet, and even if successful, the Gorgon facility would remain one of WA’s biggest polluters.
“The announcement that geosequestration has finally commenced, two-and-a-half years too late, is a step forward – but it does not solve Chevron’s pollution problem and it does not provide a silver bullet for the LNG industry.
“It is yet to be seen if this facility will work successfully in the long term. If it does succeed, it will still see the Gorgon LNG project release nearly six million tonnes of pollution every year.
“It appears that Chevron has intentionally delayed the starting of the geosequestration facility, resulting in millions of tonnes of unnecessary carbon pollution. Chevron must now provide alternative offsets for the extra pollution that this delay has caused, as well as the remaining pollution from the plant.
Chevron must offset pollution
“The Gorgon facility will still release around six million tonnes of carbon pollution every year. Chevron must offset this pollution by investing in proven industries such as tree planting, carbon farming, and renewable energy, which will deliver jobs as well as environmental benefits.
“No other LNG project is proposing to implement geosequestration in WA, so this is unlikely to be a durable solution for WA’s biggest pollution sources. Opportunities to run existing LNG plants on renewable energy and offset emissions through tree planting and carbon farming are likely to be more cost effective. These other forms of offsets potentially provide a lifeline to existing LNG projects – yet the LNG industry, including Chevron, continues to resist and oppose these solutions.
“Internationally, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that gas production and use has to decline in the medium term in order to meet the carbon pollution goals set out under the Paris Agreement, and there have recently been calls for a global moratorium on LNG production due to climate impacts that are as bad, or worse than coal expansion.”
The Australia Institute’s climate and energy program director, Richie Merzian, described the start of the project as “better late than never”.
He said the company had not released details of how much it had sequestered. “Given the lengthy delays and excuses Chevron has offered to date … we will watch with interest when the project gets ramped up and is fully operational as promised.”
Federal government data shows LNG production is the main reason national emissions have risen year-on-year.
Climate Analytics researchers found the growth in LNG pollution in Australia between 2015 and 2020 would effectively wipe out any emissions avoided through the 23% national renewable energy target.
The Chevron-operated Gorgon Project is a joint venture between the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron (47.3%), ExxonMobil (25%), Shell (25%), Osaka Gas (1.25%), Tokyo Gas (1%) and JERA (0.417%).
The Australian Government has contributed $60 million towards the capital cost of the Carbon Dioxide Injection Project as part of the Low Emissions Technology Demonstration Fund.