Chevron Australia awarded a $400 million contract last month to General Electric (GE) for the world’s largest carbon capture and storage (CCS) project off the West Australia coast’s Gorgon natural gas field. Chevron estimates the CCS project will sequester four times more carbon than any other project. The project is a joint operation with the Australian subsidiaries of ExxonMobil and Shell, and is estimated to cost about AUD$43 billion for first phase of development. The Gorgon field is believed to contain about 40 trillion cubic feet of gas, about eight percent of the current global capacity.
GE will supply six units capable of injecting captured carbon 1.3 km underground the Gorgon field. GE will also supply three refrigerant units that will chill and pump 15 million tons of natural gas a year from the Gorgon field through subsea and underground pipelines to gas treatment and liquefaction facilities on Barrow Island off Australian coast. Before liquefaction, the carbon will be taken out of the natural gas and injected into depleted natural gas wells.
Claudi Santiago, president and chief executive of GE’s Oil and Gas division said the “technologically complex project… will deliver cleaner energy on an unprecedented scale.”
“Gorgon will supply cleaner burning natural gas for the growing Asia-Pacific and Australian markets, create thousands of jobs, and generate substantial revenue for Australia,” said Jim Blackwell, president, Chevron Asia Pacific exploration and production.
CCS has many critics
The West Australia branch of World Wildlife Federation (WWF) opposes the Gorgon CCS project. WWF’s Paul Gamblin said, “We believe it is a substantial threat to one of Western Australia’s most important environmental icons. It’s one of the last places, last sanctuaries for those marsupials, marsupials that are now extinct on the mainland.”
Sophie Galharret, of France’s Institute of Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) is concerned about the risks of CCS projects. “If the commercial use of carbon capture and storage fails for technical or economic reasons, we won’t know until 2015 to 2020. If it fails, Europe would have very little time to readapt its emissions reduction strategies,” said Galharret.
Brian Bjordal, director of Norway’s state-run company Gassco is also concerned about the risks involved with CCS. “At the circus, the audience incites the trapeze artist to jump. But if they were in his place, nobody in the audience would jump,” Bjordal said.
Other critics think CCS projects encourage fossil-fuel production. “Ultimately, CCS still promotes a fossil-fuel economy,” said Rebecca Harms, the vice-chair of the Greens/European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament. “We can’t be giving public money to oil and coal companies to help them use more oil and coal.”
Geologist Gabriela von Goerne, of the German branch of Greenpeace criticized CCS, said, “The main objective to mitigate climate change should be cutting carbon dioxide emissions at point of origin,” von Goerne said. “By reducing fossil fuel consumption, the demand naturally shifts toward energy sources that don’t produce carbon dioxide, like solar, wind and hydro energy.”