Discussing carbon capture and storage at conference

More than 500 people attended the Gippsland New Energy Conference in Sale. Photo: Zaida Glibanovic

Zaida Glibanovic

EXISTING carbon dioxide streams from the Longford gas plants would be sequestered under Bass Strait in ExxonMobil’s plan for carbon capture and storage in the Gippsland Basin.

Presenting at the recent 2023 Gippsland New Energy Conference, Esso Australia’s CCS Project Manager, Emma Ogilvie, spoke about the engineering studies being undertaken by Esso, Exxon’s Australian arm, to determine the potential for CCS off the Gippsland coast.

CCS is the process of capturing CO emissions from industrial activity or power plants at the source and injecting it into deep underground geological formations for safe, secure and permanent storage.

“Esso Australia has been part of the Gippsland community for over 50 years, and we’re excited to be undertaking front-end engineering design (FEED) studies to determine the potential for carbon capture and storage through the repurposement of some of our facilities,” she said.

The South East Australia Carbon Capture Hub (SEA CSS) hub, Ms Ogilvie explained, would involve the use of existing facilities, as well as the installation of some new infrastructure.

The initial phase of the SEA CSS project would take existing CO2 stream from the Longford gas plants to the Bream A platform, where it will be injected into the Bream reservoir for permanent storage.

The project has the potential to capture and store up to two million metric tonnes of CO2 per year.

The Bream field is located 46 kilometres off the Gippsland shore. Discovered in 1969, it wasn’t until 1987 where it was developed for oil production with gas reinjection that continued for close to 20 years.

After its decommissioning in 2020, it has been preserved for the past three years with the plan to re-purpose.

With the SEA CSS project, CO2 will be transported to the Bream A platform through both a new onshore pipeline and the re-purposed existing Bream natural gas pipeline.

At Bream A, existing wells would be converted to be able to inject CO2 into the depleted Bream reservoir.

The NetZero Australia authority says that even with 100 per cent renewable energy, CSS technology would be required to meet the agreed targets.

Therefore, Australia would need to develop a carbon capture capacity of about 175 million tonnes per year to achieve net zero by 2050.

While Esso’s major goal is to reduce its own emissions, the company believes there is a future in reducing emissions in general and turning the Gippsland Basin into a CSS centre.

The chief executive of the CO2CRC, Matthias Raab, who is a leader in global scientific, engineering and energy, was also in attendance and addressed claims that CCS technology is unproven.

Dr Raab said CSS was among the few proven technologies that could enable reduced CO₂ emissions from high-emitting and hard-to-decarbonise sectors, such as power generation and heavy industries, including manufacturing, refining and petrochemicals.

The project director at CarbonNet, Jane Burton, explained that CarbonNet plans to build a 100km pipeline from Loy Yang to Golden Beach, which will enable multiple CO2 industrial capture projects, based in the Latrobe Valley, to share CO2 transport infrastructure.

The pipeline will consist of about 80km of buried onshore pipeline and a further 20km (approximate) of offshore pipeline, reaching two drill centres located at CarbonNet’s Pelican site.

The Pelican storage site is located off Golden Beach in the Gippsland Basin about 1.5km beneath the seabed. The site has at least 168 million tonnes capacity and can take up to six million tonnes of CO2 per year.

Should the project continue through to the final investment decision that will be determined next year, the project could be operational by 2027.

CarbonNet has completed extensive investigations, which have been subject to independent review and certification, including detailed modelling of potential CO2 storage sites in Bass Strait.

The project is currently in stage three – project development and commercial establishment.

Ms Burton explained that CCS could benefit Gippsland as it would safeguard existing jobs, utilise existing skill sets, introduce new decarbonised employment, reduce emissions and facilitate sustainable economic growth for the region.

CSS would open opportunities for many emitter industries to take use of the Gippsland Basin.

Hydrogen and fertiliser will be a few new key industries that will be able to use the infrastructure with future potential of negative emissions from technology such as direct air capture and bio-energy.

The largest risk when it comes to CSS is leakage, but the experts said as long as the sites followed regulations and standards, the benefits would outweigh any potential downfalls.

However, many green groups and some in the local community oppose CSS as a strategy to reduce emissions.

Greens spokesperson for healthy oceans, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, said CSS was a public relations tactic for corporations to act like they were participating in reducing emissions.

“Pumping carbon under the sea from gas rigs or storing it underground just doesn’t stack up,” he said.

“The importing and exporting of carbon dioxide for sub-seabed sequestration risks turning Australia’s oceans, and those of our near neighbours, into the dumping grounds for the world’s pollution.

“Meanwhile, the CCS industry has largely been a ploy and a distraction designed to green wash a dirty industry and delay the inevitable.”

The CCS proponents maintain Gippsland is the ideal place for CCS technology, with its world-class petroleum basin, geological storage capacity, expertise, proximity to industry hubs and emerging hydrogen industry and because of our highly skilled workforce.

The ‘Opportunity for Gippsland Carbon Capture and Storage’ panel was held on Thursday August 31. Photo: Wellington Shire Council