Woodside Energy has set new interim and long-term targets to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at its Pluto liquefied natural gas project in Australia.

The move by the Australian independent has, however, brought stinging criticism from an environmental body in the country, which labelled Pluto and a related gas scheme together as "the most polluting fossil fuel project currently proposed in Australia".

The targets, which have been approved by Western Australian Minister for Environment Amber-Jade Sanderson under Woodside’s contemporised Pluto Greenhouse Gas Abatement Program (GGAP), include an interim target to abate 30% of emissions by 2030 and long-term targets to abate 100% of emissions by 2050.

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The targets are based on the proposed expansion of Pluto LNG and account for emissions associated with a two-train facility.

Woodside said it would integrate a number of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at Pluto LNG by adopting technology considered to be best practice for LNG developments in Australia, implementing operational improvements and offsetting all reservoir carbon dioxide.

Acting chief executive Meg O’Neill said the Australian company shared the state government’s aspiration to reduce and offset carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

“We are pleased to have agreed these new contemporary greenhouse gas emission reduction targets with the State for Pluto LNG,” O’Neill said on Tuesday.

"The targets, which are based on the proposed expansion of the facility to enable the processing of gas from the offshore Scarborough field, demonstrate how we have applied our corporate decarbonisation targets at Pluto LNG.

“These efforts are complemented by our investment in generating high-quality offsets and potential opportunities in renewable power and hydrogen,” she added.

'Most polluting fossil fuel project in Australia'

However, the non-governmental organisation Conservation Council of Western Australia has claimed that the Scarborough to Pluto LNG project undermines global action on climate change and places World Heritage at risk.

"Woodside and BHP’s Scarborough to Pluto LNG project is the most polluting fossil fuel project currently proposed in Australia. It would result in annual carbon pollution equal to over 15 new coal fired power stations, and more pollution than the proposed Adani coal mine.

"The direct pollution from this project would increase WA’s total emissions by almost 5% or 4.4 million tonnes per year," the council said.

Opportunities in hydrogen

Woodside is proposing to develop the Scarborough gas resource through new offshore facilities connected by an 430-killometre pipeline to a proposed expansion of the existing Pluto LNG onshore facility.

The expansion includes modifications to Pluto’s existing Train 1 and construction of a second liquefaction train plus additional domestic gas infrastructure.

Scarborough’s gas, which would primarily be processed through Train 2, contains negligible reservoir carbon dioxide. Combined with the adoption of best available proven technology in design, together these developments will be amongst the lowest-carbon LNG sources globally for Woodside's North Asian customers, the company has claimed.

Scarborough FID this year

The company is targeting the final investment decision for Scarborough and Pluto Train 2 in the second half of 2021.

Woodside is currently investigating the supply of approximately 50 megawatts of solar energy to Pluto LNG from its proposed Woodside Power Project, which would result in a direct reduction in Scope 1 greenhouse gas emissions from Pluto LNG.

The Pluto GGAP is a condition of Ministerial Statement 757, the primary State environmental approval granted for Pluto LNG in 2007.

Woodside operates Pluto LNG on behalf of Japanese partners Kansai Electric Power and Tokyo Gas, which have 5% equity apiece.