A shareholder advocacy group says gas and oil producer Woodside may have misled the West Australian environment regulator by overstating greenhouse gas emissions for its proposal to extend the North West Shelf project until 2070.

But the company refutes the claim, which forms part of the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility’s appeal against the WA Environmental Protection Authority’s recommendation last month that the project go ahead.
The North West Shelf project, also known as the Karratha Gas Plant, is the country’s oldest liquified natural gas facility and one of the nation’s biggest polluters. It could put 4.3 billion tonnes of carbon in the air over the next 50 years if its extension is approved by WA’s environment minister.

The EPA believes the project can go ahead as long as it steadily reduces operating emissions by meeting five-yearly reduction targets.

Woodside would also need to meet a raft of other conditions including reducing oxides of nitrogen which could cause World Heritage-nominated rock art in the area to fade.

But the green light from the EPA – after the International Energy Agency declared last year that there should be no new fossil fuel supply projects if the world was to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 – has seen more than 750 appeals lodged with WA’s Appeal Convenor.

The previous record for number of appeals was 170.

ACCR says the proposed annual emissions appear to have been overstated by about 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per year.

The organisation, which also has concerns about the age and efficiency of the plant, says overstating the carbon dioxide produced would mean the project would be able to avoid regulation and claim emissions reductions that did not exist.

ACCR says feed gas to the plant is in decline and reserves from the actual North West Shelf in the ocean would need to be replaced by new gas fields to feed capacity.

Alex Hillman, a former strategy adviser at Woodside and current ACCR lead carbon analyst, said the expansion could pave way for the opening of new gas basins.

“This proposal demonstrates that Woodside has no genuine intention of transitioning away from
fossil fuels, even though half of its investors have voted in favour of the company setting scope 3 emission targets,” he said.

“The EPA’s recommendations are misinformed and overly generous. The ability for the North West Shelf to meet these concerning targets using carbon offsets is scientifically flawed and at odds with WA’s policy.”

A Woodside spokesperson refuted the ACCR’s claims.

“The North West Shelf Project has an important role to play in delivering natural gas to local and international customers, providing energy that can support their decarbonisation commitments,” she said.

“The continued operation of this critical infrastructure can unlock new gas supply for Western Australian and global customers, supporting the delivery of affordable and reliable energy for years to come.”

Climate scientist Bill Hare was another appellant who argued that the EPA had not independently checked the figures Woodside provided.

Conservation Council of WA executive director Maggie Wood said West Australians had said “enough was enough” when it came to more fossil fuel projects.

“The record number of appeals that have been filed over the past two weeks shows that for all its glossy advertising about being ‘part of a better future’ Woodside has not fooled the West Australian public,” she said.

“The EPA should have rejected this proposal outright, but now it is up to the WA Environment Minister to do the right thing.

“This is purely about money and squeezing every last drop out of the international gas export market before time finally runs out for this highly polluting business model.”

The war in Ukraine has strained the international gas market with many countries previously sourcing the resource from Russia now having to look elsewhere because of international sanctions.

WA has a secure domestic supply of gas thanks to state policy, but Australia’s east coast has been thrown into energy chaos in recent months and is at the whim of the international market.

Woodside says the EPA has already imposed challenging conditions for the North West Shelf project with its reduction milestone up to 2050, and has vowed to work through the environmental approvals process with the independent body and levels of government.

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