EPA approves Gorgon expansion

Daniel Mercer

WA’s environmental regulator has thrown its support behind plans by US oil and gas giant Chevron for a multi-billion dollar expansion of its massive Gorgon LNG project.

The Environmental Protection Authority has this morning released a report in which it recommends Environment Minister Albert Jacob approve the proposal for a fourth processing train for Gorgon.

The move by the EPA will come as a welcome boost for the State’s flagging resources sector, which has been hit by a sharp fall in investment since the peak of the boom two years ago.

Under Chevron’s plans, capacity at the soon-to-be-completed LNG project on Barrow Island off the Pilbara coast would be increased from 15 million tonnes a year to 20 million tonnes.

The expansion would involve the construction of a network of gas pipelines and associated infrastructure as well as a fourth train.

It would be expected to cost more than $10 billion – on top of the $A55 billion that Chevron is budgeted to shell out for the project’s first three trains.

In its report, the EPA noted there would be implications for the environment from the expansion, especially on the marine areas during the construction phase and with respect to air quality from the plant’s eventual emissions.

However, the watchdog said it was satisfied the effects could be managed adequately subject to conditions, and recommended that it be given the go-ahead.

“The EPA carefully assessed the potential impacts to marine environmental quality, marine fauna, air quality and benthic communities and habitat and found that the proposal could be managed to meet the EPA’s objectives subject to the conditions in the existing Ministerial Statements issued for the original project,” Paul Vogel, the EPA’s chairman, said.

“These conditions include management plans for marine environmental quality, HDD activities, gas pipeline installation, marine fauna, air quality and greenhouse gas abatement.”

Despite the green light from the EPA, there are question marks over how soon the expansion will go ahead after speculation last year that Chevron has sought environmental approvals only for procedural purposes.

It has not yet formally sanctioned the expansion.

The EPA’s report will open for appeals for two weeks, before Mr Jacob makes a final decision.