It described conditions placed on these projects as “inconsistent, inadequate, unenforceable and in some cases removed altogether” and provided “startling” detail.
Chevron’s Gorgon was set a condition by the EPA that up to 40 per cent of total project emissions be re-injected underground, but due to problems with the new technology, this was not complied with or enforced until 2½ years after production began, in contravention of the approvals as confirmed by the EPA.
Chevron’s own emissions estimate given to Commonwealth authorities ddid not include the required 40 per cent reduction, suggesting, the report said, it was not counting on the technology. The report’s authors have not counted it towards their totals, saying the reinjection system is “unproven and unenforced”.
Chevron’s Wheatstone was originally required to offset a minimum 26 per cent of reservoir (not total) emissions, but these conditions were removed during the nation’s two-year period of having a carbon price, and never reinstated.
Woodside’s North West Shelf has no emission controls, the report said; Shell’s Prelude was Commonwealth regulated, but no offset conditions had apparently been set; and Woodside’s Pluto was required to offset 12 per cent of emissions but compliance was in doubt due to questionable practices around offsets and a lack of enforcement to date.
It totalled these five projects’ emissions at 32 million tonnes annually at full production, not counting fugitive methane emissions from exploration, emissions from gas usage in WA, or the emissions from the 85 per cent of WA gas exported and used overseas, mostly in Japan and China.
This 32 million tonnes, the report said, would cancel out the national effort represented by the Emissions Reduction Fund within 12 years.
The government set up the ERF (now rebadged as Climate Solutions Fund) after repealing the carbon price in 2014. It has received $4.55 billion taxpayer funding in five years and delivered 37.3 million tonnes of abatement, only slightly more than WA’s five LNG facilities created in a year.
The report dubbed the ERF “an Australian taxpayer-funded offset program for Chevron and Woodside’s operations to 2031”.
By comparison, the carbon price that operated from 2012-2014 generated $13.8 billion revenue from 348 businesses (including Woodside) and reduced emissions by 40 million tonnes in two years, according to the report.
The report warned the addition of Woodside’s Browse and Scarborough projects would add a combined 17.2 million tonnes a year.
It said the WA government’s recently announced ‘net zero aspiration’ left the way clear to approve more projects and would allow Woodside to effectively set its own carbon abatement rules for Browse and Scarborough.
This approach has seen the five current LNG projects lead the 23 per cent increase in WA’s greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, while all other states and territories’ emissions have fallen.
Australia has committed to reducing total national emissions by 26-28 per cent below its 2005 baseline by 2030 under the Paris Agreement.
But Australia has overall seen a rise on the 2005 baseline, attributed to the increase of LNG production for export by both the new report and the federal Department of Environment.
Woodside disputed the report’s calculations on Browse and Scarborough, calling it “simply wrong”.
The report’s further assumption Chevron would continue to dishonour its 40 per cent offset condition could also be disputed, but the company did not address this when questioned by WAtoday.
The report also referenced research by Carbon Tracker which said oil and gas projects already approved would take the world past 1.5 degrees of warming, naming Chevron’s Gorgon Stage 2 as third in the top six list of global oil and gas projects not compliant with the Paris Agreement.
A spokeswoman said managing greenhouse gas emissions was an integral part of Chevron’s business.
“Recently, Chevron announced new goals to reduce net greenhouse gas emission intensity from upstream oil and natural gas,” she said.
“The company intends to lower upstream oil net GHG emission intensity by 5-10 percent and upstream natural gas net GHG emission intensity by 2-5 percent from 2016-2023. The timing is aligned with stocktake milestones set in the Paris Agreement on climate change.”
A Woodside spokeswoman said proposed pollution controls for Browse and Scarborough would be addressed in public consultation, part of the approvals process.
She said all Woodside’s current and proposed projects were regulated by the federal Safeguard Mechanism to ensure emissions stayed within agreed limits, set to ensure Australia met its Paris commitment.
She said projects would be required to fully offset any “excess” emissions.
A state government spokesman said international targets were the responsibility of the federal government, and WA supported them.
“We have called on the federal government to provide WA with reassurance that Australia is on track to meet this target,” he said.
“At a state level, we will work with all sectors of the WA economy towards achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”
He defended the recently announced ‘net zero aspiration’ approach as a “sensible and balanced approach which provides guidance to industry on future job-creating project approvals”.
Emma Young covers breaking news with a focus on science and environment, health and social justice for WAtoday.