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Santos to be dragged to Federal Court for "misleading" claims 

THE Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility is taking Santos to court over claims by the company that natural gas is clean energy, and that it has a clear path to hit net-zero emissions by 2040. 

Santos to be dragged to Federal Court for "misleading" claims 

 
 
The ACCR, which usually concerns itself with filing shareholder motions sometimes backed by powerful proxies, has been sceptical of Australian LNG giants' suggestions that their gas replaces the more polluting coal given much of Japan's imports are in fact to replace nuclear power. 
 
China, by comparison, has Beijing-led policies to specifically mandate coal-to-gas switching, which began in 2017 in 14 key northern provinces and drove then-record highs prices of trucked LNG cargo trading via local social media.
 
India too has worked to replace much solid fuel, whose particulate matter when burned is often carcinogenic, with natural gas. 
 
The ACCR says this case, brought to the Australian Federal Court, wil be the first to legally challenge "the veracity of a company's net-zero target". 
 
Santos' plans centre around blue hydrogen made from natural gas and carbon capture and storage. Santos' net zero target only applies to scope 1 and 2 emissions, or those produced by the company, and not scope 3 emissions which are related to the end use of its product (typically combustion, which creates CO2). 
 
The ACCR says Santos' annual report of last year calls natural gas a clean fuel. It says "these statements convey that the extraction of fossil gas, and the  end-use of that gas, does not have a material adverse effect on the  environment". 
 
It says Santos has not said that extraction and processing of gas "involves the release of significant quantities of carbon dioxide  and methane into the atmosphere... (and )that there are alternative energy sources presently available, which Santos does not produce or intend to produce, that do not release any or any material greenhouse gas emissions". 
 
"ACCR alleges that Santos failed to disclose that it has firm plans to increase its greenhouse gas emissions by developing new or existing oil and gas projects including in the Barossa, Dorado and Narrabri LNG projects," it said. 
 
Barossa, which is intended as backfill for the Darwin LNG plant and thus is not exactly a new source of gas per se, is far higher in CO2 than the field it will be replacing, Bayu Undan.
 
CEO Kevin Gallagher has said since taking the majority stake in the field from ConocoPhillips it has redesigned the development concept to allow for all CO2 to be sent "to the beach" and not vented. 
 
It could then be dehydrated, compressed and sent to the depleted Bayu Undan reservoirs. This does not represent a firm commitment by the company at this stage and it has not filed plans with the environmental regulator. Meanwhile its Narrabri project would see 850 new CSG wells onshore New South Wales. Narrabri has not been sanctioned yet. 
 
Activists have alleged Narrabri gas is high CO2, though Gallager said July last year in a speech to the state's Independent Planning Council that "compared to coal and some existing sources of natural gas in the east coast gas market, this is a very low CO2 content, so Narrabri gas would be displacing higher-emissions energy sources". 
 
The Dorado oil development offshore Western Australia is flagged to produce 75,000-100,000 barrels of oil per day in its first phase and will send gas to Santos' infrastructure as backfill in the state by the end of the decade. 
 
The Environmental Defenders Office is bringing the case on behalf of the ACCR, and it has presented its own submissions to the IPC last year against Narrabri. 
 
The EDO also has Woodside in court in Western Australia over claims it has not fully assessed the climate impacts of its planned Burrup Hub development; it is acting for the Conservation Council of Western Australia. The EDO also took Santos to court over waste water disposal from CSG wells in 2016, with the Adelaide company capitulating in early 2017. 
 
The EDO will claim Santos is "engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct in potential contravention of both corporate and consumer law". 
 
The ACCR claims the majority of Santos' plans for cutting emissions centre around carbon capture and storage, which it maintains is an unviable, expensive technology that has thus-far failed to achieve commercial scale. 
 
"More than 80% of Santos' net zero plan relies on carbon capture and storage (CCS). The promise of CCS technology has been used by the fossil fuel sector to justify business as usual for decades," ACCR climate director Dan Gocher said. 
  
"To date the majority of CCS projects have failed. The technology is expensive and unreliable. As demonstrated by the Gorgon CCS project, even operating projects struggle to meet CO2 capture targets."
 
Santos has two CCS in train, neither yet sanctioned. Its Moomba project, shared with Beach Energy, will initially inject 1.7 million tonnes per annum of CO2 into depleted Cooper Basin reservoirs, starting with the Strzelecki. It can be scaled to 20MMta, Gallagher says. 
 
It will inject reservoir gas, not flue gas from the nearby Moomba plant, and eventually CO2 from the creation of ‘blue' hydrogen, made from steam methane reforming of natural gas. 
 
Its other plan is to use the depleted Bayu Undan reservoirs, 560 kilometres offshore Darwin, to store carbon with an eventual target of 10MMtpa, up from 2.3MMtpa initially. This project is at drawing board stage while Moomba will be sanctioned once CCS is allowed tradeable Australian Carbon Credit Units. 
 
This is a "a world-first test case in relation to the viability of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and the environmental impacts of blue hydrogen" the ACCR said today. 
 
In other world firsts this year, the Federal Court also found the environment minister Sussan Ley must protect children from climate harm, while a Dutch court ruled Shell must cut emissions by 45% by the end of the decade. 

 Ley will appeal the decision. 

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