Woodside’s $15b gas field faces heat over emissions, rock art risk
Oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum’s plan to develop a $15 billion new gas field off the coast of Western Australia is facing further pressure from conservation campaigners over the size of its emissions footprint and feared impact on Indigenous rock art.
As Woodside and joint-venture partner BHP move closer towards making a final decision on the Scarborough development this year, a coalition of groups led by the Conservation Council of WA has mounted the latest fight against the project critics say would rank as one of the biggest new fossil fuel fields in the country.
Woodside and mining giant BHP are pursuing plans to develop a major new gas field off the coast of Western Australia.
The groups, which have initiated legal action in the WA Supreme Court seeking to overturn approvals already issued to Woodside, argue regulators failed to sufficiently assess the impact on global warming and the culturally significant Aboriginal rock art precinct on the Burrup Peninsula.
WA’s new environment minister, Amber-Jade Sanderson, is due to release a decision on the project’s greenhouse-gas abatement plan imminently.
“Not only does Scarborough fly in the face of global efforts to keep warming below 1.5 degrees, but the project risks destroying globally significant Murujuga Aboriginal rock,” said Mark Ogge, principal adviser at The Australia Institute think tank.
“Woodside investors would be taking a huge gamble to spend $16 billion on this project.”
The groups on Thursday said their research had determined Scarborough would contribute 1.6 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the project – “greater than the Adani coal mine” – once emissions caused by customers of Scarborough gas around the world were factored in.
Industry representatives for Australian oil and gas producers on Thursday hit out at the claims, accusing the campaigners of “conveniently” overlooking the role natural gas played in delivering lower-carbon energy security to growing population centres.
“Another day, another hatchet job from the Conservation Council and the Australia Institute,” the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s Andrew McConville said.
“There is zero rigour and scientific evidence to back up their claims whatsoever.”
Woodside said the Scarborough gas reservoir was extremely low in carbon dioxide compared to conventional oil and gas reservoirs, and the gas would primarily be processed through a new train at its Pluto plant to deliver one of the “lowest-carbon LNG sources in Australia”.
“Over the past two and half years there have been many opportunities for stakeholder participation and comment on the Scarborough proposal, including a formal eight-week public comment period,” a company spokeswoman said.
Woodside also understood the significance of protecting the rock art, which remained a “critical issue for all stakeholders”, the spokeswoman added. The company was part of the WA government’s Murujuga Rock Art Stakeholder Reference Group, providing analysis of scientific monitoring programs to determine if there were any impacts to rock art as a result of industrial activity on the Burrup.
It comes as demand for natural gas – a fuel commonly used in cooking, heating, power generation and manufacturing – has been rebounding swiftly after collapsing last year amid global COVID-19 lockdowns. Gas firms forecast demand to remain robust as Asian nations turn to the fossil fuel for a cheap, reliable and comparatively less-emitting alternative to coal, and say it will have a role to play in transitioning Australia’s energy market by backing up weather-dependent renewable energy.
In the longer term, however, the industry is facing deepening questions about the role of gas in a rapidly decarbonising world. Investors are increasingly voicing concerns about the fuel’s emissions footprint and the risk of new gas fields becoming stranded assets under the Paris agreement’s goals to slow global warming.
The Market Recap newsletter is a wrap of the day’s trading. Get it each weekday afternoon.
Most Viewed in Business
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article