The Australian Government has granted environmental approval for ConocoPhillips’ and Origin Energy’s US$ 35 billion joint coalbed methane (CBM) project in Queensland. The Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) project will have an initial processing capacity of 4.5 million tpa, rising to 18 million tpa. It plant was originally scheduled to come online in 2014, but this is likely to be pushed back due to delays in getting approval. The Government was meant to make a decision in December, but requested additional time due to the complexity and scale of the project.
The APLNG project will initiate LNG production on Curtis Island, just off the eastern coast of Queensland. The project will develop the CBM resources in the Surat and Bowen basins, and will involve the construction of a 450 km pipeline and a facility on the island itself.
The Government’s environment minister, Tony Burke, said of the decision: “I have concluded that the APLNG project can go ahead without unacceptable impacts on matters protected under national environmental law.” However, the approval comes with a number of strict environmental clauses. The project must prepare a construction environmental management plan to address any potential impacts to wildlife and vegetation, and will require approval for water management. Residents and conservationists have been angered by the green-lighting of the project, with particular concerns that the plant could pollute the Great Artesian basin, a vast underground reservoir that is vital to local agriculture.
The CBM industry is expanding in Australia, will a number of big players, including Royal Dutch Shell and PetroChina, planning projects around the port of Gladstone. About US$ 70 billion of LNG projects are planned for the next four to seven years.
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