This story was originally published in The West Australian on 19 December 2017 with the headline "Carbon hiccup for Chevron with 5 million-tonne greenhouse gas problem at Gorgon LNG plant." © Peter Milne.
Technical problems with Chevron’s landmark effort to store carbon dioxide from the Gorgon LNG project may see more than five million tonnes of greenhouse gas released into the atmosphere over two years.
The $2.5 billion program to inject CO2 from the offshore Gorgon gas field underneath the Pilbara’s Barrow Island is a major plank of the $US54 billion project and the recipient of $60 million in Federal Government funding.
A Chevron report to the State Government released yesterday said start-up checks this year found leaking valves, valves that could corrode and excess water in the pipeline from the LNG plant to the injection wells that could cause the pipeline to corrode.
The report to the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation said the necessary remedial work meant CO2 would not be injected any earlier than the December quarter of next year.
Chevron had told the Department of Mines and Petroleum in February — when gas from the CO2-rich Gorgon field first flowed — that work to start up the injection would begin in the first half of this year.
WestBusiness understands that carbon injection will most likely start in the first half of 2019, meaning CO2 from the Gorgon field would have been be vented to the atmosphere for about two years.
The project’s Jansz-Io gas field has been operating about a year longer but produces little CO2.
Chevron estimated in its 2015 greenhouse gas abatement program it would inject between 5.5 and 7.8 million tonnes of CO2 in the first two years of production from the Gorgon field.
It is equivalent to the greenhouse gases emitted by all of Collie’s coal-fired power stations for about seven to 10 months.
The extra CO2 vented may be less than that because of continuing problems with LNG production that have required numerous plant shutdowns.
The delay will make it difficult for Chevron to meet a condition imposed by the Environmental Protection Act in 2009 that at least 80 per cent of the CO2 extracted from the gas reservoirs over any five-year period is injected underground.
A Chevron spokeswoman said the carbon capture project was complex and bigger than anything undertaken anywhere in the world.
“It is critical we commission and start this system carefully and safely as the Gorgon CO2 injection project will run for more than 40 years,” she said.
Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said Chevron had strict environmental conditions for operating on Barrow Island, which he expected to be met.
Conservation Council WA director Piers Verstegen said Gorgon was one of the biggest sources of carbon pollution in Australia. If the CO2 injection could not be made to work then the emissions must be offset in some other way, he said.
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Main image: Gorgon LNG project. Source: Chevron Australia Pty Ltd.