A storm is brewing over the $US29 billion ($32.4 billion) Wheatstone LNG project after the Shire of Ashburton raised safety concerns with Chevron's use of a one-time BHP Billiton construction camp.
The dispute has been referred to the State Administrative Tribunal and leaves Chevron without access to the 380-bed Brolga camp near its Wheatstone construction site at Ashburton North, south-west of Onslow.
There are about 3000 workers onsite at Wheatstone and Chevron says not being able to use Brolga had not caused any operational issues. But the battle between the shire and Chevron is set to drag on at least until the end of the month, meaning the camp will have been unoccupied for five weeks.
Chevron bought the camp from BHP late last year for an undisclosed sum following completion of BHP's $US1.6 billion Macedon domestic gas project and renamed it Brolga.
At the time, both sides hailed using the site a smart solution because Macedon is just a few kilometres from Wheatstone's construction site.
The shire approved Chevron's application for the camp to be used for Wheatstone in November but made its decision subject to conditions, including an indemnity protecting the shire in the event of a Macedon-led incident at Brolga.
Shire chief executive Neil Hartley yesterday said its main concern was Brolga's proximity to Macedon, a now-operational gas plant.
"The status of the plant has changed from that of construction to a live production plant," Mr Hartley said.
"We're worried about potential gas explosions or leakage."
But Chevron, which has commissioned an independent expert's report on safety issues surrounding Brolga, said "risk studies concluded the camp can be occupied while the Macedon plant is operational and this is supported by the Department of Mines and Petroleum".
"Chevron has applied to the SAT for review of certain conditions," a spokesman said.
"We will continue to work with the relevant parties to reach resolution on the matter."
The shire had asked Planning Minister John Day to intervene, but he declined.
The dispute is set down for a hearing at SAT on January 29.