The West Australian government is looking to introduce legislation that will allow carbon capture, utilisation and storage projects to be deployed in the state, which could play a vital role in decarbonising its LNG industry.

WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston has approved drafting of a bill that would “provide Western Australia’s resources sector with further investment and regulatory certainty as it transitions to a low-carbon future”.

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The Greenhouse Gas Storage and Transport Bill will look to provide industry with access to opportunities to decarbonise, such as through CCUS.

Johnston said the bill would provide resources projects with further long-term certainty while protecting and creating more jobs in the sector.

“The Bill is one of a number of options the McGowan Government is exploring to deal with climate change and we are working hard to ensure the proposed technologies are safe and secure,” he said.

“Decarbonising WA’s resources sector and developing a legislative framework to support these goals is essential to the growth and economic diversification of our state.”

The government confirmed it would consult the resources industry and the public on any proposed legislative amendments before the bill is finalised.

Industry backing for CCUS legislation

News of the new legislation was welcomed by US supermajor Chevron, which currently operates the state’s only large scale CCS project, at its Gorgon LNG project on Barrow Island.

“Chevron strongly supports the introduction of legislation that will allow for the development of carbon capture and storage in Western Australia,” Chevron Australia managing director Mark Hatfield said.

“As an important net-zero technology, enabling CCS more broadly will provide opportunities for hard-to-abate sectors to accelerate decarbonisation, as well as open up new potential industries, creating and sustaining employment and economic prosperity for the state.”

Hatfield added that Gorgon has abated about 6 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions since it began injection in 2019, however, teething issues since the project’s start-up has seen it yet to operate at its designed 4 million tonne per annum capacity.

“As one of the largest greenhouse gas abatement projects in the world, the Gorgon CCS system is providing us with key learnings which we continue to share with industry and government to assist in the development of this critical emissions-reduction technology,” Hatfield added.

The planned legislation was also received positively by upstream industry body the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA).

In a statement following the government’s announcement, APPEA said the proposed legislation would help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and “contribute to a cleaner-energy future”.

APPEA WA director Claire Wilkinson added that Australia’s oil and gas industry was committed to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, while adding that some companies were targeting that goal earlier.

“Billions of dollars have been invested by our sector in cleaner-energy technologies, such as CCS and hydrogen,” she added.

“CCS is a proven, viable method and the oil and gas industry is well positioned to deliver the technology. With WA home to most of the oil and gas activities in Australia, CCS is a key tool in our decarbonisation toolkit to reduce emissions.”

Wilkinson said the oil and gas industry’s knowledge of WA’s subsurface environment would provide it with an advantage when looking to develop CCUS projects, while claiming it would also help support a new hydrogen industry.

“We support this move by the WA Government. By providing regulatory certainty in this area, it will not only reduce emissions but give business confidence to invest, create jobs and grow the economy,” she said.

Targeting CCUS and hydrogen opportunities

Australian LNG giant Woodside Petroleum is already exploring a large-scale CCS project near its LNG facilities near Karratha, on WA’s Burrup Peninsula.

Woodside revealed last year it was partnering with BP and Japan Australia LNG (MiMi), which are two of its five partners in the North West Shelf LNG facility, to assess the technical, regulatory and commercial feasibility of capturing carbon emitted by multiple industries on the Burrup Peninsula and storing it in offshore reservoirs in the Northern Carnarvon basin.

The legislation also comes as WA is seeking to grow its nascent hydrogen industry, with a number of projects already in the pipeline, including Woodside’s proposed “world-class” hydrogen and ammonia production facility near Perth, while BP is looking to produce hydrogen at its former Kwinana oil refinery site.

Last year, the Chamber of Minerals & Energy (CME) released a paper claiming that WA had unique advantages for blue and green hydrogen production.

In relation to blue hydrogen, the CME noted WA’s substantial natural gas resources and geological formations suitable for CCUS.

The WA government has also set an ambitious target of 100 gigawatts of renewable energy for green hydrogen within a decade, with that figure to double to 200 GW by 2040.