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Authorities shut down $76B project until ‘massive’ cracks are repaired

Chevron Australia Gorgon Project
Chevron Australia's Gorgon Gas Project

An oil and gas producer will have to cease operating until urgent repair work is done on damaged facility equipment at its US$54 billion (A$76B) development.

The Western Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) has ordered a temporary and phased shutdown for Chevron’s Gorgon Gas Project, 145km off the shore of Karratha.

‘Massive’ cracks

Chevron will have to check propane heat exchangers on LNG trains one and three for any breaches, after workers reported “massive” cracks, measuring up to 1 metre long and 3cm deep in between eight and 11 kettles on the second LNG train during scheduled maintenance.

The proponent plans to shut down the first train for inspection in October 2020 while the third train will be examined at the beginning of the New Year. There is no estimated timeframe for restarting the LNG trains.

‘Acceptable’ risk

DMIRS believes the repairs will pose an acceptable level of risk under the Dangerous Goods Safety Act, and the company took reasonable steps to reduce the chance of a gas leak. QMEB understands this is because any cracks appearing on the exterior of exchangers are unlikely to cause a major explosion due to the low pressure typically used in the equipment.

“[Chevron’s supporting] information included details on the origins and nature of the defects as well as the risks associated with various approaches to addressing the uncertainties around trains one and three,” DMIRS dangerous goods director Steve Emery said according to the Australian Associated Press (AAP).

Poor workmanship

The proponent previously found substandard fabrication caused multiple breaches inside of the 15.6 million tonne per annum Gorgon LNG Processing Plant.

Chevron criticised its South Korean supplier for selling poorly welded kettles to both the Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects, and is confident Gorgon’s 800-strong workforce will be able to resolve the issues.

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“We are committed to operating safely and reliably and continue to work closely with DMIRS in planning and implementing inspections in the safest and most effective way,” a spokesperson said in a public statement obtained by AAP.

“The appropriate safety measures are in place and we continue to deliver LNG to customers and natural gas to the WA domestic market under our contractual commitments.”

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