opinion

Chevron’s Barrow Island carbon capture innovation is industrial emissions reduction leader

Rob CarruthersPilbara News
Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA policy and advocacy director Rob Carruthers.
Camera IconChamber of Minerals and Energy WA policy and advocacy director Rob Carruthers. Credit: Ryan Ammon

Imagine if an innovative global tech-leader came out on the front page of the newspaper with a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking one million cars off the road each year. It would get your attention, right?

What if that was just the beginning in terms of reduction potential of this applied technology? You’d been keen to understand more. Me too.

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to travel to Barrow Island for an up-close look at Chevron’s world-class Gorgon project.

Most West Australians will be familiar with the project, at least by name, and generally what it does.

Over more than six years of construction, Gorgon directly engaged more than 10,000 workers, with thousands more ongoing jobs sustained by operations that export LNG overseas and also provide a significant amount of gas to the WA market.

So far, the Gorgon CCS has injected more than 5 millions tonnes of CO2 equivalent since it went live in 2019

But it’s only when you get on site you can fully appreciate the scope of what is regarded as the single largest resources project in Australian history.

One of the things I was most keen to see — and which made the biggest impression on me — was the carbon capture and storage technology being applied at scale at Gorgon to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

You may have read about Chevron’s use of CCS at Gorgon in media reports.

As Chevron readily admits, it was a learning process applying CCS technology at an unprecedented scale, from design, through construction and the ramp-up since becoming operational in 2019 — and that learning is ongoing, as with any technological step-change in history.

The theory behind the Gorgon CCS is pretty simple.

Gas produced from offshore fields contains CO2, which is separated at the Gorgon LNG plant and, in turn, injected into sandstone reservoir formations more than 2km beneath Barrow Island, where it is permanently trapped.

This is an extremely complex venture that requires a specialised pressure management system to safely manage injection, and also monitoring to stay on top of everything that is going on kilometres below-ground.

For some operations, CCS might provide an avenue to reducing emissions, while for others it will involve investment in renewable energy and reliable energy storage on site

Emissions from Chevron Australia’s operations were reduced by more than 20 per cent from 2019-20, due largely to the CCS system.

The aim remains to store more than 100m tonnes over Gorgon’s 40-year life span. CME and its member companies are committed to finding innovative, efficient and cost-effective solutions to help reach the climate targets set by the Paris Agreement.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

For some operations, CCS might provide an avenue to reducing emissions, while for others it will involve investment in renewable energy and reliable energy storage on site or developing cleaner supply chain processes for production.

But the commitment to achieving emission reduction goals across industry is very real.

You need only look at the Minerals Research Institute of WA’s inaugural Net Zero Emission Mining Conference held in Perth last week for evidence of this.

Fifteen years ago, it would have been difficult to imagine such an event existing. But in 2021 it went ahead with six CME member companies among the speakers

  • Rob Carruthers is the Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA policy and advocacy director

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