MELBOURNE, Dec. 14 -- Western Australian Environment Minister Mark McGowan has cleared the way for a final investment decision on the Chevron Australia group's $15 billion (Aus.) Gorgon LNG project off the state's northwest coast.
The minister overturned objections to the project made in June this year by the Western Australian Environment Protection Authority (EPA). However in upholding the Chevron group's appeal, he has laid out a series of conditions, including:
-- An additional $60 million (Aus.) commitment by the Gorgon group to a series of initiatives to conserve the flatback turtle population, which annually lays eggs on Barrow Island near the plant site.
-- A series of stringent conditions on the project concerning dredging, quarantine, greenhouse gas reinjection, flatback turtle monitoring, short-range endemics and subterranean fauna.
As part of the government license, the group will also be required to contribute $40 million (Aus.) toward resolving a number of environmental issues in the Pilbara and West Kimberley regions of Western Australia, including rehabilitation of Dirk Hartog Islandsite of the first recorded European contact with Western Australia.
The project also needs final environmental approval from the Federal Minister for Environment Ian Campbell before it can proceed.
Chevron and its partners, ExxonMobil Corp. and Shell Australia, will now have to weigh the costs of these latest conditions against the economics of the project as a whole.
The group has already invested $1 billion in the preliminaries to development, including $40 million for a carbon dioxide data well on Barrow Island to investigate the feasibility of geosequestering Gorgon's 12% CO2 content in reservoirs some 2.5 km below the island.
Chevron says that an indication of whether the two-train, 10 million tonne/year LNG plant would go ahead could be given around the middle of 2007.