Gas conditioning plant VCAT appeal rejected

THE Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last week rejected Wurruk resident Morgan Knoesen’s appeal against Wellington Shire Council’s granting of a planning permit for Esso’s Longford gas conditioning plant.

That rejection has effectively given the go ahead for the billion-dollar project.

ExxonMobil Australia chairman Richard Owen told the Gippsland Times the gas conditioning plant was an exciting project and marked a significant milestone in Esso’s move from an oil and gas company to a major natural gas company.

“An EPA works approval has been granted (for the GCP) and now the planning permit,” Mr Owen said.

“We will wait and see if there is a challenge (in the Supreme Court) and follow due process, but we expect to mobilise later in the year.”

Mr Owen emphasised that although the gas conditioning plant would add no extra capacity to the three existing gas processing plants, it was essential to the removal of excess carbon dioxide and mercury from the Kipper Tuna Turrum gas to enable Longford’s plants to process the natural gas for use.

He explained the CO2 extracted would be vented to the atmosphere and the mercury trapped on an absorption bed which would be replaced every five years, with the absorbed mercury sent for treatment by a licenced hazardous waste facility.

Mr Owen argued that while there was a future for renewable energy sources, and ExxonMobil was involved in algal and other biofuel research overseas, its prime focus was on the efficient extraction and processing of oil and gas for energy.

Esso Australia has awarded the engineering procurement and construction contract for the greenfields work associated with the Longford Gas Conditioning Plant to CB&I, an international oil industry project management company.

CB&I project manager David Stanfield told Tuesday night’s Longford Gas Plant dinner that while the project was a world-scaled operation and contracted as such, locally sourced logistic resources and manufactures would be utilised where possible.

“CD&I is in the bidding process (for construction) and major equipment that can be made in Gippsland will be made in Gippsland,” he said.

Mr Knoesen’s objection to the planning permit cited 12 separate grounds of appeal, each of which VCAT dismissed as outside its jurisdiction, lacking substance or Mr Knoesen lacking the standing to make the appeal.

VCAT deputy president Helen Gibson determined his application “should be dismissed pursuant to section 75 of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Act 1998 because it is misconceived and lacking in substance.”

However Mr Knoesen has vowed to continue his fight to prevent the GCP discharging an additional one million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year.

“I am seeking legal advice (on a Supreme Court appeal) but will need community support and a lot of money,” he said.

“I have been advised I would be responsible for the financial costs of the other party if the decision went against us,” he said.

“Perhaps I could get one of Esso’s community grants to help finance (the case); they say they are for the community.”