Australia: Browse LNG Wins EPA Approval
The Browse Liquefied Natural Gas precinct at James Price Point has been recommended for strict conditional approval, Environmental Protection Authority Chairman Paul Vogel announced today.
Dr Vogel said the assessment of the Minister for State Development’s strategic proposal was the largest and most multi-faceted ever conducted in the EPA’s 40 year history.
“The level of complexity in assessing this proposal was unprecedented,” Dr Vogel said.
“The assessment has been incredibly thorough and included wide consultation with community members and scientific experts, site visits and meetings with interest groups.
“After carefully considering each environmental factor, I have recommended a rigorous set of 29 conditions and offsets to ensure the EPA’s environmental objectives are met.”
Dr Vogel said the precinct, which will produce up to 50 million tonnes of LNG per year from the Browse basin at a site 60 km north of Broome, provides for multiple users to be co-located on a single site, avoiding a number of LNG processing sites to spread along the coast and in more sensitive parts of the Kimberley.
It has also allowed the consideration of the cumulative environmental impacts of future projects, known as derived proposals.
“The numerous conditions recommended will guide the ultimate development plan, as well as apply to specific, future LNG projects within the precinct,” Dr Vogel said.
“Future proposals will still need to be carefully scrutinised by the EPA to ensure that they were identified in the strategic proposal and fit within the strictly defined precinct footprint.” Dr Vogel said assessing James Price Point as the preferred location for the precinct had been a well thought out process.
In 2008, the Northern Development Taskforce (NDT) short-listed four potential sites from more than 40 suggested locations for a multi-user LNG precinct.
Of the four sites considered, the EPA recommended that environmental risks and impacts at James Price Point were likely to be manageable based on the available data.
“Creating any industrial undertaking, particularly one of this magnitude, will have an environmental impact, however these impacts and risks can be managed to an acceptable level,” Dr Vogel said.
The environmental impact assessment of James Price Point considered the impact on the following factors:
Marine Fauna: Dr Vogel said the population of Humpback Whales off the west coast had continued to increase exponentially since commercial whaling ceased in the 1960s, despite the significant increase in iron ore and petroleum industries over the same period.
He said turbidity from dredging, oil spills, industrial discharges, noise, light and vessel strikes had the potential to adversely impact individual whales, dolphins, turtles, dugong and fish in the area.
“Provided the strict conditions recommended are implemented, impacts to marine fauna will be managed and are unlikely to be significant at the species population level,” Dr Vogel said.
- suspending marine pile driving and blasting at night during the peak southern migration of mother and calf Humpback Whale pods;
- more research into the distribution and habitats of dugong, turtles, Snubfin and Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins to assist in long term management and conservation;
- detecting and controlling marine pests.
Seabed Habitats: Dr Vogel said dredging of 34 million cubic metres of the seabed had the potential to affect habitats that support algae, seagrass, corals and filter feeders in the area.
Proponents should be able to design and build a port in an area that is unlikely to compromise the overall ecological functioning of the marine environment provided strict conditions were applied, he said.
- all dredged channels and wharves must be wholly contained within the precinct area;
- permanent impacts must not extend beyond 500 metres of dredged areas;
- proponents of future proposals will be required to use best practice in dredging and management to minimise impacts;
- proponents of derived proposals should put forward offset measures to address impacts and risks;
- surveying the marine environment before, during and after marine works to determine baseline conditions, impacts and recovery.
Marine Environmental Quality: Dr Vogel said a high level of ecological protection was necessary to ensure emissions to the marine environment did not significantly affect ecosystem health, recreation, aesthetics, fishing, aquaculture and cultural and spiritual values.
He said the proponent had also committed to preparing a comprehensive oil spill response plan.
- appropriately locating wastewater discharge outlets within a tightly specified area inside the port;
- implementation of a Wastewater Discharge Monitoring and Management Plan.
Terrestrial Biota: Monsoon Vine Thicket vegetation has a high conservation value and is also important to traditional owners as a significant source of customary foods and other resources, Dr Vogel said.
- losses of all types of Monsoon Vine Thicket should be limited to 132 ha due to direct and indirect impacts;
- all practical measures should be taken to limit impacts to specially protected species before clearing occurs and once infrastructure is located;
- additional reserves should be created to secure conservation of Monsoon Vine Thicket and Greater Bilby habitats;
- proponents of derived proposals put forward offset measures, including contributing to conservation initiatives.
Landscape Processes: Dr Vogel recommended that pipelines should be installed by micro-tunneling techniques and that coastal management and terrestrial erosion management programs are implemented to limit the impacts on coastal erosion.
Surface and Groundwater: Future proponents must demonstrate that any excavation can be undertaken without unacceptable impacts on Monsoon Vine Thicket vegetation.
Heritage: Dr Vogel said Aboriginal heritage matters were particularly important in this area and noted that they had been extensively addressed in agreements reached between Traditional Owners and the State Government.
“Indigenous interests have been properly heard and considered in this assessment,” he said.
Dr Vogel said he had also considered the heritage value of fossilised dinosaur track sites that occur in Broome Sandstone in the region.
Surveys, with input from Traditional Owners, local people and independent expert advisors, were conducted by international experts and independently peer reviewed.
Based on these findings, it is recommended that the precinct should not cross the shore within 900 metres of James Price Point to avoid fossil dinosaur footprints.
The EPA also recommended additional surveys occur in any areas where Broome Sandstone exists at the surface and is planned to be disturbed for this proposal.
“If fossils are found, disturbance should be avoided wherever possible,” Dr Vogel said.
“Where disturbance cannot reasonably be avoided, appropriate recovery work to salvage or properly document fossils prior to disturbance should be undertaken under the guidance of an expert and with the advice and participation of Traditional Owners.”
Air emissions: The report recommends gasses, dust, noise and light emissions are managed at best practice levels, ensuring they do not pose a threat to human health.
Greenhouse gases: Future proponents should implement best practice in design and operation to minimise greenhouse gas emissions.
Developers will also need to comply with new Commonwealth carbon tax regulations which came into effect on July 1, 2012.
It is also recommended a co-operative fire management strategy with Traditional Owners is established to limit late season fires, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from burning and help offset emissions from the proposal.
LNG World News Staff, July 16, 2012; Image: Woodside