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Calls for Chevron gas project in Australia to be shut down after cracks found in critical components

28 July 2020

Energy giant Chevron is facing calls to shut down its Gorgon natural gas project on the west coast of Australia after thousands of cracks, some measuring up to one metre long and 30 millimetres deep, were discovered on critical components. The Gorgon gas project comprises a three-train, 15.6 million tonnes per annum LNG facility and a domestic gas plant with the capacity to supply 300 terajoules of gas per day.

Gorgon - Image: Chevron Australia
Gorgon - Image: Chevron Australia

Safety concerns were raised at Gorgon, Australia’s second largest gas export facility, after maintenance checks revealed thousands of cracks on kettle heat exchangers which carry pressurised propane on the facility’s Train 2. 

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the discovery of the cracks has led to the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) calling for an immediate shut down of Gorgon. 

In a statement, AMWU WA secretary Steve McCartney said: "The reports we’re hearing of over eight kettles being damaged represents a serious failure in this critical piece of kit. If multiple kettles are showing cracks in testing on Train 2, there is a high risk there are cracks in the vessels on other trains. If these cracks are in the vessels, they cannot be fixed, and they need to be replaced immediately.”

“We’re hearing from workers that they’re fearful for their safety and are reluctant to even go out to the blast-proof wall. We share their fears," McCartney added.

The Herald reports that the Gorgon facility has three LNG trains, but if maintenance work on one of the trains was to last longer than a month then Chevron could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue. Maintenance checks on Train 2 started in May and are continuing, a spokesperson for Chevron told the Herald.

The spokesperson added that Chevron was pleased with the current progress of the maintenance turnaround on Train 2 and that the relevant regulatory bodies had been informed about the discovery of the cracks.

The Herald adds that the West Australian Department of Mines, Industry, Regulation and Safety has said that while it has no concerns yet for worker safety, it was in discussions with Chevron and would conduct an inspection of the LNG plant as soon as possible.

The Gorgon Project is located on Barrow Island, around 37 miles (60 kilometres) off the northwest coast of Western Australia. Chevron operates the project and owns a 47% stake, while ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell each have a 25% stake.

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