Chevron deliberately delaying carbon storage mechanism, says conservation peak body

The operator of the Gorgon liquified natural gas (LNG) project, Chevron, has deliberately mismanaged the carbon sequestration program it promised in order to get approval for the controversial LNG development, according to the Conservation Council of WA.

IMAGE: Chevron’s Gorgon LNG project on Barrow Island CREDIT: Google

The company’s faulty and failing 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, and subsequently being 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.

“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 from what is already WA’s biggest polluter.

“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.

“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.”

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Australia’s emissions still rising, driven by WA dirty gas

The Federal Government has today released national greenhouse gas emissions figures that show Australia’s emissions continuing to climb. With the report delayed a week and despite global acknowledgement about the need to drastically reduce emissions to meet Paris agreement targets, this is the fourth straight emissions rise in a row under a coalition government.  

The major source of increased emissions is the exporting of gas to foreign countries like Japan and India. To export the gas, the production and transportation have a concentrated emissions burden, which is set to continue as new and expanding developments come online in Western Australia. WA Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is driving the surge in Australian emissions, at the same time cancelling out the net benefits of emissions reductions in the energy sector from the uptake of renewable energy production.

The Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor, has fought back suggestions that Australia would continue to default on international obligations saying that gas exports allow other nations to reduce their own pollution levels relative to other forms of energy production such as coal.

The ‘gas vs coal’ argument was today refuted by Mr Mark Ogge, principal adviser at The Australia Institute:

“Even if gas is used in Australia it is likely to be little, if any, cleaner than coal. And on top of that crowds out the development of cheaper zero emissions renewables, locking in gas infrastructure and continuing emissions for decades. This is is often ignored at the policy level.”

“But once gas is exported the greenhouse gas emissions produced are just as bad or worse” he said.

“This is because processing and transport for export uses a huge amount of energy creating additional emissions. On top of that there is methane leakage at every point of process, most of which is not even accounted for. The idea that gas is ‘clean’ is fossil fuel industry spin. Only the gas industry could spin the narrative of massive emissions export as somehow reducing emissions. Like ‘clean coal’ the notion of ‘clean gas’ has been completely discredited.”

Clean State campaigner Kate Kelly agreed saying that WA LNG is a massive source of emissions at every stage of production and end use amounting to over 200 million tonnes of climate pollution a year.

“We have independent research that shows the need to better regulate our gas industry, ensuring that we are making the most of the current boom and looking ahead to a brighter future with renewables” she said.

“At a time when all other developed countries are reducing emissions, a zero net emissions approach is the only way to go. We need to make sure that we reduce LNG pollution and use any offsets or controls on that industry to grow carbon farming and land restoration projects here in WA. We need to create new jobs and renewable technology as we go – it’s the best thing we can do for our state and our kids’ future.”

ABC’s Four Corners exposes the gap between Australia’s climate aspirations and the stark reality of LNG emissions

This week’s Four Corners program has highlighted why facing the climate change challenge should be the central concern of every decision maker in the nation. However, amongst the states, Western Australian Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is a major cause of Australia’s rising emissions, and is undermining our national capacity to meet the Paris agreement.

Ahead of the Liberal-National Coalition’s budget announcements, federal Labor published its emissions reduction plans yesterday, claiming that Australia could become a “renewables superpower”. There is an unrecognised potential for realising Western Australian carbon and job benefits if a Labor Government gains power and adjusts emissions policy settings after the upcoming national election.

At the state level, the announcement of Federal Labor policy coincided with WA Premier Mark McGowan’s trip to China to promote WA as an LNG ‘hub’ at a time when WA emissions are soaring. WA emissions are rising sharply relative to Australia’s carbon budget, making national capacity to keep on track for the Paris agreement extremely difficult. As evidenced by Reputex’s recent report, requiring the gas industry to offset their emissions from production could create more than 4,000 jobs in the carbon farming, renewables, and land management sectors.

At the same time there has been a surge in renewable energy capacity at the national level. To make the most of the transition, the Four Corner’s program identified that the renewables industry should be supported with regulatory approaches, which mandate targets that can replace fossil fuels for energy production.

Maintaining LNG industry viability whilst meeting Paris targets means supporting approaches such as the ‘zero net emissions’ stance of WA’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), which recently introduced a stronger greenhouse gas policy, only to withdraw it a week later citing the need for more industry and community consultation. Rather than a stronger ‘no new fossil fuel exploration or developments’ approach, the WA EPA has moderately signalled that industry certainty can be achieved by mandating 100% of emissions from large projects, throwing a lifeline to LNG exporters. Meanwhile, WA Health Minister and Deputy Premier Roger Cook yesterday announced a broad ranging inquiry into health and climate change mitigation for the state.

Comments attributed to Clean State campaign director Ms Kate Kelly:

“We are not on track to meet Paris commitments and it’s WA LNG that is driving up Australia’s emissions.

“How can our WA parliamentarians go to interstate forums such as COAG arguing that other states should reduce their emissions so that ours can increase?

“A sensible approach is to counterbalance emissions by requiring all new large projects to offset 100% of their production pollution. This will bring down pollution and generate investment in local carbon farming and renewable energy for WA, creating new jobs in growing industries like battery storage, lithium processing, and green hydrogen export.

“A commonsense approach to transitioning towards a carbon positive economy will allow WA to benefit from a timely regulatory response to the challenge of climate change.”

Consultation on EPA policy will shine a brighter light on WA gas pollution

The Western Australian EPA recently published new greenhouse gas guidelines

Following the release of the policy, Western Australians saw a sustained series of full page advertisements paid for by the fossil fuel industry accompanied by front page headlines in the state’s daily tabloid newspaper. After meeting with a group of LNG industry executives, a week after the policy was released, the Premier announced that the EPA was withdrawing their policy for further consultation. The consultation process is expected to begin in the next few months.

The EPA’s updated greenhouse gas guidelines required fossil fuel companies to state how they would avoid, reduce or offset their ‘direct’ (or production) emissions to achieve zero net emissions for their projects in Western Australia. The policy stopped short of requiring offsets for all WA Liquefied Natural Gas pollution and did not prevent future expansion of the oil and gas industry altogether as climate scientists have called for.

The role of the EPA policy is to guide how industry proposals will be assessed by the EPA in the future but have no immediate effect on existing businesses. The EPA guidelines are not government policy and do not require government approval, however they do shape the advice that the EPA will provide on individual projects in the future. The government must have regard to this advice but is not bound to follow it.

The chairman of the EPA, Dr Tom Hatton has remained resolute stating that whilst all stakeholders would be consulted, the EPA has a legal and moral authority to ensure WA emissions and Australia’s carbon budget, are on track to meet the Paris agreement.

Clean State campaign director Ms Kate Kelly agrees saying that “the withdrawal is now a signal to us that we must make sure our government knows that we need a ‘zero net emissions’ approach.”

“The Clean State campaign will work to ensure the community has a voice as part of this consultation and is engaged fully as part of the process.”

“It is obvious to all that fossil fuel companies command too much power in this state” said Ms Kelly.

“They pay little tax and no royalties however they have the ready cash to try to improve their reputation by placing their branding all over our sports stadiums and arts events whilst they cook the planet. Just like tobacco companies in the past, it’s time to rein in their influence on our state.”

“The tide is turning, and our polling shows the great majority of people want action on climate change. We want investment in renewable energy solutions and a carbon positive economy that brings new, sustainable jobs. We know that the policy proposed by the EPA is a very reasonable approach to reducing pollution and brings significant opportunities for the Western Australian community.”

The Environmental Protection Authority’s new greenhouse gas policy was welcomed by a diverse cross section of civic groups including Unions, Church Groups, academic advocacy groups such as the Environmental Defenders Office (WA’s only public interest legal firm), the Beeliar Group, many scientists and peak bodies such as The Wilderness Society and the Urban Bushland Council.

Ms Kelly said that “whilst this is a great step forward it is important to note that only a modest percentage of the entire emissions burden would have been regulated by the policy. As such it will only cost the proponents around 2% of their operating profits.”

Clean State looks forward to working with the community and the EPA on the consultation process, to ensure better outcomes for Western Australians.

WA Government announces EPA withdrawal on climate policy

The Premier Mark McGowan has today announced that the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has withdrawn their Air Quality Guidance which required the state’s biggest polluters to avoid, reduce and offset their emissions.

Only hours after hosting a round-table discussion with WA LNG companies and peak industry representatives, Premier Mark McGowan announced the sudden withdrawal of the EPA’s policy, published last week.

Clean State campaign manager Ms Kate Kelly said,

“The policy withdrawal is extremely disappointing given its moderate aims which only sought to offset production emissions and did not include end use pollution.

“Western Australia has an opportunity to stimulate significant employment in industries that can reduce pollution, such as the renewable energy and carbon farming industries to counter the runaway emissions from these projects. We need action on climate change now, our kids cannot wait, we cannot wait.”

Clean State polling shows that nearly 80% of Western Australians want action on climate change and believe that WA gas polluters should be regulated to offset their emissions. The Clean State campaign has collected the signatures of over 5,000 people who support the policy released by the EPA last week.

The pollution from the LNG industry in WA is a major driver in Australia’s emissions growth, with WA’s emissions rising by a staggering 27% between 2000 and 2016.

For as little as 2% of their profits Chevron could be making their pollution carbon ‘neutral’ according to Chevron’s own publicly reported emissions capacity.

Clean State released independent analysis from RepuTex Energy, revealing 4,000 new jobs would be created in land management, renewable energy and clean industries if the state government acted on requiring WA’s largest polluters to offset emissions.

“There is still an opportunity to capture significant employment and economic benefits for WA. 

Now, more than ever it is time to listen to the needs of our state and plan for a better future” Ms Kelly said.

Clean State will be supporting students in the school strike for climate action on Friday 15 March at St George’s Cathedral from 11am.

Clean State welcomes new Climate Policy from the Environmental Protection Authority

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has today released a new Air Quality Guidance which will put stronger obligations on fossil fuel companies to reduce and manage greenhouse gas emissions produced in Western Australia.

The outcome will be a ‘zero net emissions’ approach which will stimulate significant employment in industries that can reduce pollution and generate carbon credits, such as the renewable energy and carbon farming industries.

Clean State campaign manager, Ms Kate Kelly welcomed the policy adjustment saying that,

“Our children and our state now have a much brighter future because of the new Environmental Protection Authority climate policy. Fossil fuel companies will need to demonstrate that they are reducing and counterbalancing all of their climate pollution from production.  

At the same time, it provides enormous opportunity for our state’s economy to transition to using renewable energy alongside the growth of carbon offset industries here in WA.”

The new policy will bring State commitments closer in line with Australia’s international agreements and calls from climate scientists to reduce rather than increase climate pollution.

The recent upswing in Australia’s national emissions is mainly driven by the production of Western Australian Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for export which uses gas to fuel the liquefaction process and is very energy intensive.

Only 15% of WA gas is used in Western Australia, and only a small fraction of that (around 3%) is used in homes.

Clean State commissioned report, Offsetting Emissions from LNG in WA with independent analysis shows that around 4,000 new jobs would be created, mostly in regional areas through offsetting the emissions of major polluters on projects here in Western Australia. Tree planting, native vegetation or ecological restoration and avoiding clearing will all provide carbon credits, known as ‘carbon farming’.

The policy released today provides a fantastic opportunity for moving towards the diversification of regional economies whilst generating significant social and environmental benefits.

Ms Kelly says “reinstatement and strengthening of conditions on LNG and other fossil fuel companies will send a price signal to the market but one which they can easily meet with a few days of operating profits”

“Compared to the alternative which is runaway impacts from climate change, this policy shows that WA is ready to do its part to stop climate change and it’s a win win situation which will support the right industries and jobs to grow in our economy while looking after the environment.”

OECD Review highlights need for action on pollution from WA gas processing

A newly-released OECD Review of Australia’s Environmental Performance has singled out WA’s growing LNG industry as a primary driver of Australia’s rising carbon pollution, noting that the ‘rapid increase in emissions’ from this sector has offset savings made elsewhere in Australia’s electricity sector, due to the closure of coal-fired power stations.

The report is a snapshot of Australia’s response to climate change and its progress in protecting national biodiversity. It is highly critical of Australia’s ‘ad hoc’ approach to climate change and notes that Western Australia is the only Australian State without a carbon pollution reduction target.

Clean State Campaign Manager Kate Kelly today welcomed the report, saying it provided yet more evidence of the urgent need to get pollution from WA gas processing under control.

“This report is particularly timely given that measures to control carbon pollution from WA’s two biggest gas processing facilities are currently under review by the EPA.”

“While other States have pollution reduction targets and are closing polluting coal generators, these gains are being cancelled out because WA has runaway growth in carbon pollution from new gas processing facilities.”

“Gas companies like Chevron pay little tax and no royalties, yet they are driving climate change with tens of millions of tonnes of pollution every year. It’s time this industry cleaned up its act but we know from experience that the answer is strong government action.

“Polling shows 78% of Western Australians support action by the State Government to control pollution from gas processing, and now the OECD report explains why there is an urgency to consider this a priority action as part of global efforts on climate change.

“The OECD report provides a strong signal to the WA Government that addressing pollution from the oil and gas industry must be a priority, and the good news is that such action has the potential to kick-start new industries and generate thousands of new jobs for Western Australians.

Analysis by Reputex Energy shows that if gas companies were required to invest just a few percent of their massive annual profits in climate solutions like tree planting, renewable energy and land management, around 4,000 new jobs would be created, mostly in regional WA.

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Taskforce can unlock thousands of jobs by tackling LNG pollution

Clean State has called on the LNG Jobs Taskforce to focus on the huge job creation opportunities that are immediately available in WA, by LNG companies addressing their rapidly rising carbon pollution.

The LNG sector is WA’s largest polluter, and growth in this pollution is putting Australia’s international obligations under the Paris Agreement at risk.

As part of the Clean State campaign, the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) recently released independent analysis from RepuTex Energy, revealing around 4,000 new jobs would be created in land management, renewable energy, and other industries if the LNG industry offset its greenhouse gas emissions.

CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said, “We call upon the Premier and the LNG Jobs Taskforce to focus not just on engineering and manufacturing jobs, but also consider the huge job creation potential that exists in tackling carbon pollution from the LNG industry.

“While the cost of tackling LNG pollution represents just a few percent of LNG companies’ mega profits, it represents an enormous source of jobs and benefits for Western Australians. All of these jobs and benefits can be captured here in Western Australia.”

Clean State Campaign Manager Kate Kelly said that jobs tackling carbon pollution were easy wins for the LNG Jobs Taskforce and should be considered low hanging fruit.

“The analysis shows that the majority of jobs in tackling carbon pollution will be located in regional areas. Industries such as land management, tree planting, and renewable energy would be big winners and even bigger employers.

“The LNG industry is currently the state’s largest polluter, but tackling that pollution can be turned into a huge opportunity to develop new clean industries that will position WA to be a leader in the future low carbon global economy.

“This is a win-win for jobs and the environment, and should be top of the agenda for the LNG Jobs Taskforce.”

Chevron’s gas pollution blowout driving Australian emissions to record levels

The Conservation Council of WA has warned that very large increases in carbon pollution from LNG gas processing in WA were driving Australia’s emissions to record levels, and risking Australia’s international obligations under the Paris Agreement.

New figures released yesterday by independent research company NDEVR Environmental show that Australia’s carbon emissions have never been higher, and that pollution from natural gas production and processing are also hitting record levels. According to NDEVR, “LNG expansion increased 41.4% in 2017”.

Let's make Chevron clean up its act!

Chevron’s gas processing will produce nearly 20 million tonnes of carbon pollution every year – making it Western Australia's biggest polluter by far.Please spread the word by sharing this video, and donate to http://www.ccwa.org.au/togetherwecan – thank you!

Posted by Conservation Council of Western Australia on Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Conservation Council of WA Director Piers Verstegen said huge increases in LNG production capacity in WA with no pollution limits are now risking Australia’s international obligations under the Paris Agreement.  

“Western Australian LNG production for export is leading the charge on emissions, with Chevron’s giant Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG developments coming on line in the last 12 months. These two facilities will produce close to 20 million tonnes of carbon pollution every year between them, making Chevron WA’s biggest polluter and the biggest driver of pollution growth nationally.

“Since the removal of a carbon tax by the Abbott Government, electricity emissions have been increasing. However gas processing at Chevron’s two giant LNG facilities in WA is responsible for an even greater pollution increase.” .

The pollution blowout is being made worse by Chevron’s failure to comply with conditions requiring carbon geosequestration at the Gorgon LNG plant on Barrow Island. Compliance documents reveal that the technology to inject carbon pollution underground has not been successfully deployed, and there is doubt that it will ever be effective. Separate conditions requiring the the Wheatstone LNG facility to reduce and offset pollution were removed under the Barnett Government.

“WA will become the world’s largest exporter of LNG and Australia’s biggest source of pollution growth this year”, Mr Verstegen said.

“Chevron’s giant gas facilities have no current limits on the pollution they can release, so it is no surprise the company is taking advantage of this situation.”

WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson has triggered a review by the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) into the conditions regulating pollution from the two Chevron projects.

“Requiring Chevron to reduce and offset its pollution by investing in environmental restoration, tree planting, and renewable energy would deliver more jobs and other benefits to Western Australians,” Mr Verstegen said.

“Currently Chevron is sending huge profits offshore along with the Western Australian gas it exports. The company has paid no tax on its profits, and pays no royalties to the State Government. 

“We need less gas pollution and more clean solutions from Chevron. It’s time the company was held to account for its pollution, which is risking Australia’s international commitments to climate action,” concluded Mr Verstegen.

Review of WA’s largest polluter welcomed

The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) has welcomed a review of conditions imposed on WA’s largest polluter to control carbon pollution from the giant Gorgon LNG facility on Barrow Island.

A notification of the review, which has been triggered by Environment Minister Stephen Dawson, was posted on the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) website yesterday.

Conditions imposed on the Gorgon facility require Chevron to capture and inject underground about 20% of the total carbon pollution from the facility, which will produce nearly 10 million tonnes of CO2 annually when in full operation. The underground injection of carbon pollution was the primary justification for Chevron to build the massive LNG refinery on the Barrow Island Nature Reserve.

Chevron’s compliance report released in late 2017 reveals the company has been unsuccessful in making this underground CO2 injection work, despite receiving over $60m in government subsidies for the CO2 injection equipment.

In November 2017, CCWA called for Chevron to suspend production at the Gorgon LNG facility until the CO2 injection could be made to work, or alternative offsets provided for the carbon pollution.

CCWA Director Piers Verstegen said it was clear that Chevron had been ignoring its obligations on climate change, and the State Government imposed conditions on the Gorgon project.

“Chevron is by far the biggest polluter in Western Australia, and is set to produce nearly 20 million tonnes of carbon pollution per year from its two giant LNG refineries.

“Chevron has admitted that they are failing to implement even the very modest conditions imposed by the WA Government, so the review of conditions on Chevron’s Gorgon facility is strongly welcomed.

“The reviews of pollution conditions on the Gorgon and Wheatstone facilities is an opportunity for the EPA and State Government to apply a science-based approach, and bring these conditions up to a contemporary standard.

“The Northern Territory Government recently accepted recommendations that pollution from gas developments should be offset, including pollution from burning the gas here in Australia or overseas.

“Applying this standard to LNG projects in Western Australia would capture significant new jobs and investment in carbon farming, renewable energy, and clean technology.

“Rather than sending huge profits offshore and leaving Australian taxpayers to deal with its massive pollution problem, Chevron should be investing in local jobs and technology to offset its pollution here in WA.”