Woodside gets regulatory approval for Scarborough gas project

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has accepted an offshore project proposal (OPP) from Woodside to develop the Scarborough gas fields off northern Western Australia.

Indicative subsea layout for the Scarborough Project; Source: Woodside

While the impacts of COVID-19 on the community and industry are being assessed and managed, NOPSEMA said on Thursday it continues to undertake normal processes of assessment and regulatory oversight in accordance with legislative requirements, of which this decision is a testament.

The approval announcement follows a thorough assessment of more than a year, with the assessment period including an eight-week public comment process.

NOPSEMA said it has approved the Scarborough project because it’s satisfied that it can be undertaken in an environmentally responsible way, while appropriately managing greenhouse gas emissions. This approval includes provision for monitoring and adaptation to changes arising as a result of uncertainty in the context of global climate change.

Woodside proposes to adopt a range of management and mitigation measures to assist in reducing global emissions, ensuring emissions across the lifecycle of the project would be reduced to acceptable levels.

Woodside CEO, Peter Coleman, said NOPSEMA’s acceptance of the OPP was a significant step forward for the proposed development of the Scarborough gas resource, which is now being progressed on a revised schedule due to the current uncertain global investment environment.

Coleman added: “Woodside is continuing work to ensure we have all the necessary regulatory approvals and commercial agreements in place to ensure a final investment decision can be taken for Scarborough in 2021.”

Transition to lower-carbon future 

In recognizing the need to transition to a lower-carbon future, Woodside’s proposal positions Scarborough gas to play a key role in the future global energy mix, the regulator said.

Woodside will be contributing to global efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas levels by actively displacing more carbon-intensive power generation with gas, as a less carbon-intensive source of fuel.

NOPSEMA’s actions and decisions are guided by Commonwealth legislation such as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation 1999 (EPBC Act) and the National Greenhouse Energy and Reporting Act 2007 (NGER Act).

As such, NOPSEMA must give appropriate and relevant consideration to greenhouse gas emissions from offshore energy projects, including direct impacts, and on a case-by-case basis, indirect consequences.

Woodside proposes to start developing the Scarborough gas fields in 2023, following the drilling of wells, installation of pipeline and semi-submersible floating production unit.

This approval is subject to further regulatory approvals, including an accepted environment plan, a well operations management plan and safety case. An accepted environment plan is required before any activity can begin. Environment plans are also reviewed by NOPSEMA at least once every five years.

The Scarborough gas field, discovered in 1979, is located off the coast of Western Australia approximately 220 kilometers northwest of Exmouth in 900 meters of water.

Scarborough gas would be initially processed on a deep-water floating production unit and transported through a 430 km pipeline to a proposed second LNG production train at the existing Woodside-operated Pluto LNG facility on Western Australia’s Burrup Peninsula.

The field is held 73.5% by Woodside and 26.5% by BHP.