The Australian Conservation (ACF) filed documents with the Federal Court of Australia in Melbourne seeking to halt Woodside Energy’s proposed Scarborough gas field development offshore Western Australia until its impact on the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland has been assessed.
The ACF claims the project will emit an estimated 1.37 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases over its 25-year projected life.
Although the Barrier Reef is on the east coast of Australia more than 4,000 km from the proposed development, and much of the Scarborough production will be LNG destined for overseas markets, the ACF argues that the emissions will contribute to overall climate change that is causing bleaching of the reef.
The ACF alleges that although Scarborough development has been assessed and passed by the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) the project has never been approved under Australia’s environment protection law because projects assessed by NOPSEMA are exempt from national environment law.
The Foundation says that exemption does not apply if a project is likely to have a significant impact on World or National Heritage values of the Great Barrier Reef.
Woodside chief executive Meg O’Neill responded by saying that Scarborough has been rigorously assessed not only by NOPSEMA, but also by a number of other regulators including the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment and the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority.
O’Neill said that Woodside will vigorously defend its position in the Court proceedings.
Scarborough development plans include an initial eight subsea wells (13 over the life of the project) tied into a floating production unit and feeding into a 430-km pipeline to the shore-based Pluto and North West Shelf LNG and domestic gas infrastructure on the Burrup Peninsula near Karrartha.
Scarborough contains an estimated 11 tcf of dry gas with a CO2 content of 0.1%. First LNG exports are scheduled for 2026.
The Supreme Court of Western Australia dismissed in February this year two cases brought by the Conservation Council of Western Australia in 2019 against approvals for the Pluto and NW Shelf plants accepting gas from new fields. A third challenge to the proposed Pluto LNG expansion (Train 2) has yet to be heard.