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Australia’s Woodside plans CCS for Browse gas project

Australian independent Woodside Energy is planning a carbon capture and storage (CCS) element for its Browse gas project offshore Western Australia (WA), but blamed stalled approval processes for the slow progress.

The North West Shelf (NWS) life extension — which was first referred to regulators in 2018 — needed to be approved before Browse could progress further, chief executive Meg O’Neill said at the Australian Energy Producers conference held in WA’s capital Perth this week. The life extension would allow the joint venture and third-party users to use the NWS project facilities until around 2070.

WA’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) recommended that the NWS life extension be approved in 2022, if it reduces its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net zero by 2050. But the process remains incomplete, awaiting state and federal ministers’ decisions and a final issuance of conditions for the project.

WA’s Office of the Appeals Convenor is still working through responses to the EPA’s recommendation, which it must then report to the environment minister alongside its own recommendations, a process which was interrupted by the resignation of a senior bureaucrat last year.

Woodside wanted to progress the CCS side of the Browse project before the end of 2024, O’Neill said, but the lack of certainty regarding approval timelines affected other elements of the project.

“We’ve been working closely with the [federal government], state regulators and the Browse JV on the right approach to the environmental approvals, there are a couple of possible pathways that we are evaluating and we hope to be lodging the requests for approving that element of the project within this year,” O’Neill said on 21 May. “But part of why we’ve been very disciplined in our work on Browse and not ramped up engineering work is because it is very difficult to get line of sight for when we’ll get those approvals. With personnel changes at the appeals convenor we really don’t have very good line of sight unfortunately.”

The 368bn m³ Browse development is considered critical to WA’s future as a major LNG exporter and could provide long-term certainty for the 16.9mn t/yr NWS LNG, where partners have already signalled they will close a 2.5mn t/yr train later this year.

Average gross GHG emissions from the three Browse fields are between 6.4mn-6.8mn t/yr with an additional 7.7mn t/yr once Browse gas is liquefied, resulting in total emissions of 14.1mn-14.5mn t/yr of CO2 equivalent, according to the environmental impact statement Woodside released in 2022. This necessitates a CO2 solution for it to progress under Canberra’s net zero scope 1 emissions rule instituted last year.

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