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Investigation begins into ‘massive’ cracks at $76B offshore project

Chevron Australia
Chevron Australia

A US$54 billion (A$76B) gas development could be forced to temporarily close after workers discovered giant cracks on facility equipment.

Authorities are investigating multiple breaches in pressurised propane kettles on one of three liquefied natural gas (LNG) trains at Chevron Australia’s Gorgon Gas Project, 145km off the shore of Karratha.

Fast response

The Western Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) confirmed it will investigate as quickly as possible.

“The department’s discussions with Chevron included a review of the actions it has taken to ensure the integrity of the LNG plant’s other trains, and the actions taken to ensure worker safety,” director of dangerous goods and petroleum safety Steve Emery said according to the Australian Associated Press (AAP).

“As part of any maintenance action, DMIRS expects all operators to review their findings and to assess the results in light of their entire operation.”

Workers ‘fearful’ for safety

The remarks came after workers reported “massive” cracks, measuring up to 1 metre long and 3cm deep in as many as 11 kettles on the second LNG train.

“[This] represents a serious failure in this critical piece of kit,” Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union state secretary Steve McCartney said in a public statement.

“These kettles are carrying pressurised propane and the trains are lined up next to each other on the plate.”

Immediate safety inspection

Since the union fears there are more cracks on two other LNG trains that are still in operation, it believes the proponent should shut down the project for an immediate safety inspection.

“We are hearing from workers that they are fearful for their safety and are reluctant to even go out to the blast-proof wall,” McCartney said.

“We share their fears. Chevron needs to put workers’ safety first and shutdown for an independent investigation. If something goes wrong it would be catastrophic.”

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The proponent confirmed the second LNG train underwent maintenance since May and was supposed to be recommissioned on July 11.

“Maintenance turnarounds are a regular part of safely operating natural gas plants and provide an opportunity to undertake various inspections, repairs and equipment change-outs to ensure safe and reliable operations,” a Chevron spokesman told the AAP.

“The Chevron-operated Gorgon Train 2 Turnaround commenced in May and we are pleased with the strong progress made to date, with scheduled work mechanically complete. Learnings from the current maintenance event will inform future turnarounds and afford the same opportunities for improvements.”

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