Australia: Australia's most polluting project begins approvals 'by stealth': CCWA - - PressFrom - Australia
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Australia Australia's most polluting project begins approvals 'by stealth': CCWA

00:40  15 november  2019
00:40  15 november  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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a close up of a map: The locations of the gas fields.© AFR The locations of the gas fields.

LNG giant Woodside is gaining approvals for its Burrup Hub project "by stealth", according to Western Australia's peak environmental advocate, by splitting it into seven individual proposals which obscure total greenhouse gas emissions.

a boat in the water: The new connections forging the Burrup Hub are shown in red.© Woodside The new connections forging the Burrup Hub are shown in red.

The Conservation Council of WA labelled it "a case study on how fossil fuel companies are gaming the environmental approvals process to avoid public scrutiny of their impacts".

CCWA analysis released last week, based on public documents WAtoday has also viewed, reveal the Burrup Hub represents almost 20 million tonnes of additional greenhouse gas emissions from WA per year.

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It estimates emissions from burning the fuel overseas at 80 million tonnes per year; a total which would make the Burrup Hub Australia’s biggest polluting facility with quadruple the emissions of Queensland's Adani project.

a close up of a sign: How WA's LNG system works and where emissions come from.© Clean State How WA's LNG system works and where emissions come from.

This does not factor in Woodside’s announcement last week that the Scarborough field was 50 per cent bigger than originally estimated.

The Council said with the Browse field anticipated to last until 2070, the Burrup Hub vision contravened Paris Agreement targets and the state's aspiration of net-zero emissions by 2050.

Woodside intends to use the Burrup Hub to “process more gas than the entire volume volume extracted from the NWS since startup in 1984”.

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It said the Hub was “more ambitious than the combination of mega-projects that comprise Scarborough and Browse.”

But the Burrub Hup is being broken down into seven to nine different proposals – depending on how you count them – to be individually considered by three different authorities.

Some aspects are onshore, some offshore, some in state and some Commonwealth waters.

Approval for the first proposal is imminent and suggests these authorities will not be considering the impacts of the whole.

The Pluto-North West Shelf connector would be a 3.3-kilometre buried steel pipeline on the Burrup Peninsula, connecting the Pluto and North West Shelf gas plants.

While the pipe itself would have minimal environmental impact, it is the first of the interconnected parts that would enable the Burrup Hub vision, allowing the Pluto and North West Shelf plants to process gas not just from the two fields they are already connected to, but also from Scarborough and Browse.

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For more info and conservation tips, visit our Outdoor Watering Page under the For Your Home Tab. Payment Options. CCWA bills customers monthly. The amount is due upon receipt of the bill. Online Pay online using CCWA ’ s third party payment processor, Speedpay, an ACI Worldwide company.

CCWA appealed the state Environmental Protection Authority's recommendation for approval, saying it should have to consider cumulative greenhouse gas emissions of the entire hub, over the lifetime of the new fields, in approving any part of the Burrup Hub.

But the EPA’s appeals convenor recommended Environment Minister Stephen Dawson dismiss the appeal, which he did.

The argument was that only the gas plants' annual emissions were relevant, not the increased number of years that gas would be coming through them.

CCWA believes this is "grossly misleading”. Their analogy is that smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for one year has a very different impact than smoking a pack a day for 10 years.

“The huge new gas fields Woodside plans to bring online would extend highly polluting LNG processing for decades, releasing hundreds of millions of tons of additional pollution until at least 2070 – well past the date when the Paris Agreement requires net-zero emissions to be achieved globally," CCWA director Piers Verstegen said.

The appeals convenor had said the EPA would take into account greenhouse gas emissions during its assessments of other projects in the region.

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"The EPA have suggested to us that they have no choice but to assess the individual project elements as they have been described by Woodside, and have no powers to compel a more strategic assessment with a broader scope," Mr Verstegen said.

"We have a very different view. It cannot be the case that the EPA and Minister has no powers to properly assess the climate impacts of one of the world’s most polluting fossil fuel projects.

“This is a scandal – Australia’s most polluting project being approved bit by bit without any assessment of the total greenhouse gas emissions.”

Mr Verstegen said while breaking the Burrup Hub vision into numerous components might generate an impression of progress to shareholders, it was a high-risk strategy.

"Any resulting approvals will be vulnerable to legal challenge and there is clearly a strong appetite for that among the community and environment groups," he said.

An Enviromental Protection Authority spokeswoman said it was looking at all aspects of Burrup Hub projects in a "holistic manner".

"As an example, in December 2018, the EPA determined to assess a proposal from Woodside Energy to extend the operation of the North West Shelf Project to enable the long-term processing of third-party gas and the North West Shelf joint venture field resources through the North West Shelf Project facilities (Karratha Gas Plant) until around 2070," she said

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"The proposal’s environmental scoping document was open for a two-week public review period in June and the environmental review document will be open for a six-week public review period.

"As part of this assessment, the EPA has identified Air Quality as a key environmental factor and has required the proponent to characterise direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions and develop a greenhouse gas management plan.

"A greenhouse gas management plan has also been requested for Perdaman Urea Project on Murujuga (Burrup Peninsula), which is currently being assessed by the EPA."

The spokeswoman said the EPA had also initiated a study to quantify cumulative air emissions from existing and proposed industries, and to predict pollutants in different scenarios.

"The information derived from the study will inform the EPA’s future assessments of industrial development proposals within the airshed," she said.

"It will also inform the Murujuga Rock Art Monitoring Program and the establishment of the Murujuga Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Network.

"Findings will be made public in mid-2020."

A Woodside spokeswoman referred WAtoday to the company's response from last week, in which it called the CCWA analysis misleading and wrong. She declined to contest the figures in any specific detail.

Woodside's response last week also said it would address the state government's requirement for companies to outline their efforts to reach the net zero at 2050 target during the approvals process, with public comment phases expected to commence soon.

It said Woodside’s projects would comply with emissions limits set by its agreements with government authorities which would ensure Australia met its Paris Agreement targets.

Woodside being able to pull off the Burrup Hub depends not only on approvals but also on investment decisions as the hub involves several joint ventures with different partners including Shell, BP, BHP and Chevron.

Woodside is yet to secure a deal for Browse with partners Shell, BP, Japan Australia LNG and PetroChina.

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