Carbon plans key for Perth Basin explorers

THE Perth Basin has changed in more ways that one. Not only is there a new gas province in what is now being called the Permian fairway, and hopes for new onshore oil; but explorers are factoring carbon plans into their developments from day dot.

And, in a sign of increasingly sophisticated times when it comes to ESG work and offsets, each company has its own decarbonisation plan that speaks to its own strengths. The days of nothing more than an off-the-rack solution of a few trees planted elsewhere have gone, and nature-based offsets are but one of many carbon strategies.

"I think if you're not planning your carbon upfront whilst you're drilling up your hydrocarbon resources you're going to be fraught with a very difficult development as the two must work hand in hand today," Strike Energy managing director Stuart Nicholls told Energy News Bulletin's inaugural round table event at SAP offices.

"You can't, sort of, reverse engineer a - a decarbonisation plan off the back of a large hydrocarbon discovery."

Strike is pursuing gas in three separate but interlinked Perth Basin projects - West Erregulla, Walyering and South Erregulla - and plans to move into urea production and potentially hydrogen. It has a net-zero target by 2030, 10 years' earlier than giant Santos and two decades ahead of Woodside Petroleum's ambition. Executive remuneration is tied to the target.

"That's an aggressive and ambitious commitment that's equal to that of Fortescue, with a lot of much larger peers who have legacy carbon," Nicholls said.

"Businesses like Woodside, Santos and Beach, you know, have 2040, 30, 2050 commitments. So I think the contemporary nature of companies like Strike and - and the ones sitting around this table we can actually build the carbon strategy into the foundations of the business."

Strike shares West Erregulla with Warrego Energy. Strike is operator. Warrego's carbon commitment is 60% carbon offsets from day one.

"At West Erregulla our commitments have been made through the submissions that are going through the EPA at the moment," Warrego Energy general manager commercial Cathy McKeagney said.

"That's consistent with the Waitsia project and the basis on which they moved forward through approvals and to FID. So we as a joint venture and side by side with AGIG, who's building the gas bunk for us."

The company has a separate, nascent blue hydrogen project further north in its large EPA127, which is going through the last stages before it becomes an exploration permit proper.

"It's the carbon strategy's there upfront, even before we've explored for gas in that permit. The two things go hand in hand, and then that's - that's the focus on - on both of those assets that we have here in the Perth Basin," McKeagney said.

The blue hydrogen project is shared with Pilot Energy, RISC, Genesis and Technip.

Triangle Energy, with an offshore legacy oil project, has a different strategy again. Managing director Rob Towner says the company is looking at "more early stage technology, driven investment that will roll out in 10 to 15 years".

"We're not looking at certainly recreating a hydrogen industry. We've obviously got the joint venture with the solar offshore with the wind... but we're still to develop the real strategy where we'll invest now to do that, and that's in multiple different areas of  the energy mix.

"So the answer is it's not even a work in progress we're looking at right now.

"So we're trying to utilise Arrowsmith (the onshore processing plant Triangle's Cliff Head oil goes to) as a stepping stone now, not a stepping stone for 15 years, so demonstrating that with the renewable biodiesel plant as a starting point."

Metgasco's strategy varies on the project given its footprint extends beyond onshore oil in the basin, where it plans to drill the 15 million barrel Cervantes prospect in the first half of next year, to Cooper Basin gas.  

"We're going to be a future gas producer next year in the Cooper and we're going to be pushing the gas into Santos for sale," managing director Ken Aitken said.

"They recently went through FID for a carbon capture and storage project. It'll take a year or two to get it up and running, but we'll be naturally carbon net zero from that point so that'll cover our emissions.'

The 1.7 million tonne per annum CCS project spearheaded by Santos and Beach Energy was sanctioned some months ago after the government made the practice eligible for Australian Carbon Credit Units.

When we find oil at Cervantes... we're thinking about what we've got to do there and that might be some tree planting and some carbon net zero type investments to offset any gas flare.

"Ideally you don't want to flare any gas. You could use gas lift or you can use it to get the oil out, but we're already planning how we're going to approach that and we're going forward."

Pushing gas back into the reservoir to force more oil out is common practice in some jurisdictions. 



This article is based on discussions during a special ENB roundtable discussion on the Perth Basin, held 23/11/2021 in Perth. 

















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