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Proponent ordered to fix ‘massive’ cracks at $76B project

WA Department of Mines inspectors
WA Department of Mines inspectors

An oil and gas producer must do urgent repair work on damaged facility equipment at a US$54 billion (A$76B) gas development.

Western Australia’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) has issued both remediation and improvement notices for multiple pressurised propane kettles on a liquefied natural gas (LNG) train at Chevron’s Gorgon Gas Project, 145km off the shore of Karratha.

Illegally registered

The notices require Chevron to check propane heat exchangers on two LNG trains for cracks no later than August 21. The proponent must also make eight propane kettles on the second LNG train comply with WorkSafe rules no later than August 28, because the vessels were unlawfully manufactured differently to the registered design.

An additional 24 improvement notices were issued concerning plant registration, weld repairs, inspection and possible repair work on the third LNG train.

“DMIRS continues to take the matter seriously and is in close contact with Chevron,” department dangerous goods director Steve Emery said according to the Australian Associated Press (AAP).

Multiple breaches

The decision came 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 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.

“The defects that we found in the wells we believe were there from the original manufacturer. They are not a design defect at all but they are a manufacturing defect,’’ Chevron upstream executive vice president Jay Johnson said according to AAP.

“We do not need to replace the vessels. We believe the repairs are going to be fully effective.”

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The department does not believe Gorgon workers will be exposed to high risk since the proponent has adequately mitigated potential gas leaks.

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.

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