Unions have reported a second mercury poisoning incident at the Chevron-operated Gorgon liquefied natural gas project in Western Australia.

The Offshore Alliance, a coalition between the Australian Workers’ Union and the Maritime Union of Australia, claimed a Contract Resources worker had been contaminated with mercury at the Chevron-operated facility.

It claimed the worker entered a mercury-impacted vessel in the Acid Gas Removal Unit at the plant wearing insufficient personal protection equipment for the task.

“Instead of wearing a standard Tyvek suit and respirator, the Contract Resources employee should have been wearing a full air vest for cooling, chemical suit, fully taped gum boots with breathing apparatus,” the Offshore Alliance stated in a social media post late last week.

“The Contract Resources employee was working in the Mercury Vessel for approximately 1.5 hours, perspiring and sweating with mercury impacted liquid dripping on him.”

The union group claims the worker was “drenched” with mercury-contaminated liquid and, upon exiting the vessel, an emergency response team and ambulance were called and the employee was stripped and put under the safety shower.

Investigation underway

The worker allegedly tested positive for mercury exposure of 200 micrograms per litre “all over his body”, with the Offshore Alliance stating it had made a formal complaint about the incident with the regulator.

The union group had already lodged a complaint with the regulator over another mercury poisoning incident on Barrow Island the previous week.

A Chevron spokesperson confirmed to Upstream on Monday that an investigation was currently underway into the latest incident.

“At this time, no adverse health effects from exposure to a hazardous substance have been recorded. While precautionary health monitoring is ongoing, personnel have resumed duties,” the spokesperson said.

“Robust safety procedures are in place in all areas where mercury is handled at Chevron Australia facilities, including dedicated mercury management facilities, and additional protocols have been implemented at Gorgon in response to recent events.

“We also have a high level of surveillance in place and strongly encourage reporting of all incidents. We continue to meet our regulatory reporting obligations and keep the relevant government agencies informed.”

Chevron’s Gorgon LNG project is located on Barrow Island, just off the West Australian coast, and is fed by the offshore Gorgon and Jansz-Io fields.

The joint venture owners of the Gorgon LNG project include operator Chevron with a 47.3% interest, ExxonMobil with 25%, Shell on 25%, Osaka Gas with 1.25%, Tokyo Gas on 1% and Chubu Electric Power with 0.417%