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AAP News (Australia): World’s largest geosequestration system part of Gorgon project

Rebecca Le May,
Published: Sep 07, 2007

PERTH, Sept 7 AAP – Chevron Australia is on the front foot in combating global warming after pledging to undertake the first large scale carbon dioxide geosequestration project in Australia, as part of its multi-billion dollar Barrow Island Gorgon gas development.

Chevron Australia general manager Colin Beckett said the project, to put carbon dioxide underground to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, will be larger than any other geosequestration scheme currently contemplated or in production. There are geosequestration projects in Nigeria and Norway, but in Australia the only other effort in this area is being led by the Cooperative Research Centre in western Victoria.

Chevron said its system would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 120 million tonnes over the life of the project, by injecting carbon dioxide 2.5 kilometres below the island. This was the equivalent of taking 250,000 cars off the road each year.

The energy giant today cleared the final stage of the approvals process for the mammoth project, as Western Australian Environment Minister David Templeman imposed 36 state environmental conditions on the undertaking. Mr Beckett described the conditions as some of the most stringent imposed on a major project anywhere in the world. “We’ll be stripping the carbon dioxide out from the (gas) reservoir and then injecting it into a saline reservoir beneath Barrow Island, where it will be permanently stored,” Mr Beckett said.

“We’ve been pursuing this injection scheme for a number of years and participated in research in the late 1990s, which gave us confidence to be able to do this … and have spent a considerable amount of money to make sure we have the technical aspects of this sorted out and to make sure we’ve got the geology in which to inject it.”

He said Chevron had operated on Barrow Island for over 40 years and done extensive geological and geophysical work to fully understand the area. “The use of carbon dioxide as a recovery mechanism in oil fields has been around for a long time, so we at Chevron have significant international experience in injecting and compressing CO2 into reservoirs to enhance oil recovery.”

The company said in 2003 that the project would cost $11 billion. It has not provided an update on that figure as work still needs to be done on engineering and design.

Observers have speculated it could cost between $15 billion and $20 billion, but Chevron has neither confirmed nor deny this figure. “It’s large and complex, and has a lot of challenges – we’re working through all of that – and in due course, as we make investment decisions, we’ll be making those numbers more clear but for now, we’re not prepared to speculate,” Mr Beckett said. “We published a figure of $850 million as being the cost for the storage scheme and first 10 years of operations.”

In addition to establishing the geosequestration system, the joint venture partners – Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell – must establish expert panels to protect the unique biodiversity of the island and surrounding marine environment. Mr Templeman said the proponents had accepted the conditions, which were one part of a three point environmental protection plan including an addition $60 million commitment by the joint venture to conserve the flatback turtle population and protect other endangered species.

The final conditions included a requirement that the companies submit annual audit compliance and environmental performance reports. “We have always believed that the Gorgon project can be developed in a way that continues to protect the conservation values of Barrow Island while generating significant economic benefits,” Mr Beckett said. “We are doing as much work as possible to ensure this valuable Australian gas resource is developed responsibly, effectively and efficiently.” The Gorgon project is globally significant with an estimated resource base of more than 40 trillion cubic feet of gas and a nominal development life of around 60 years.

Last year, the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) rejected environmental approval for the construction of a gas processing plant on Barrow Island. Chevron chairman and chief executive Dave O’Reilly was today attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in sydney. AAP rlm/klm

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