Gorgon clears another hurdle

CHEVRON'S proposed Gorgon liquefied natural gas project on Barrow Island has all but been given the go-ahead after Western Australian Environment Minister Donna Faragher gave conditional environmental approval.
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The conditional approval follows the Environmental Protection Authority's (EPA) recommended approval of the revised and expanded project in late April subject to stringent conditions, which were appealed during a public consultation period.

Last night, Faragher determined appeals against the EPA report. She agreed there was a need for better protection of high-value coral adjacent to the project and strongly endorsed imposing conditions to minimise artificial light emissions to protect flatback marine turtles on Barrow Island.

"Given the value of Barrow Island as a habitat for flatback turtles, I strongly endorse this condition with the object of minimising light emissions," she said.

"For the first time, management of light emissions will be required as a project condition."

To protect the coral adjacent to the estimated $50 billion project, Faragher said monitoring would be extended to significant coral reef outcrops outside impact zones.

"This condition reinforces my focus on protecting the important coral outcrops, and that coral lost due to dredging will continue to be confined to three per cent of the total coral area off the east coast of Barrow Island," she said.

Other improvements to conditions include continued monitoring for subterranean fauna and incorporating noise emissions into the long-term marine turtle management plan and other plans as required.

The Gorgon project consists of the development of the Gorgon and Io/Jansz fields that will be linked by subsea pipelines to Barrow Island, where the three-train LNG plant - capable of producing 15 million tonnes of LNG per annum - will be located.

It will include a 300 terajoule per day domestic gas plant and pipeline to the mainland, as well as a carbon dioxide sequestration project aimed at storing the high CO2 levels present in Gorgon gas in deep formations beneath Barrow Island.

The project is also expected to generate billions of dollars in royalties and about 6000 jobs, with more than 3500 direct and indirect jobs sustained throughout its life.

In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, Chevron said the company was looking forward to timely environmental approvals by the state and federal governments.

The company also said it expected to make a final investment decision on the project in the coming months.

The Gorgon partners are Chevron Australia (operator and 50%), Shell (25%) and ExxonMobil (25%).