Western Australia’s fantasy of making Kimberley the next Dubai and the world’s largest gas hub suddenly came crumbling down following Woodside Petroleum’s announcement today it is dumping its $45 billion LNG investment in James Point Price.
Woodside CEO Peter Coleman admitted the gas project is economically unviable saying the company has been under cost pressure. He said James Point Price does not meet the company’s commercial requirements for a positive investment decision. A major review of the proposed LNG processing plant near Broome was found it would not deliver the returns the company needed.
While this development is a cause for elation among traditional land owners and local communities who have fought day in and day out to block the project, the WA state government is now pointing fingers amid the “dismal failure” of the project.
WA Opposition Leader Mark McGowan blamed Premier Colin Barnett, saying his constant interfering and meddling caused the project to be lost. Barnett has opposed offshore processing and has intervened in the decision of the onshore site which is unviable, McGowan claimed.
Woodside also announced it will immediately engage with the Browse joint venture to recommend evaluation of other development concepts to commercialise the Browse resources. Woodside would consider floating technologies, a pipeline to existing LNG facilities in the Pilbara or a smaller onshore option at the proposed Browse LNG precinct near James Price Point, a statement said.
Coleman said the company supports floating technology, but this will need to be determined by the joint venture. Woodside’s partner like Shell Australia, for example, supports the onshore floating technology.
“Floating LNG can bring significant long-term, sustainable jobs to Western Australia, Australia, and the Kimberley, as well as providing employment and business opportunities for Kimberley indigenous people,” Shell spokesperson Ann Pickard said in a statement. She added Shell would work closely with the Browse joint venture and government to keep the Browse project on track.
Premier Barnett laments the failure to develop a gas hub project at James Price Point is a “tragedy and a missed opportunity.”
Greens celebrate death of Barnett’s gas hub
The Wilderness Society said the gas fiasco should serve as a warning to governments and businesses not to go ahead with any project without a social licence forcing communities to accept unwanted and unsustainable developments. He notes Barnett’s failure also proves that WA can not be trusted with environmental assessments.
Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders said, “Woodside and its joint-venture partners have avoided possibly the biggest environmental battle in Australia’s history by walking away from Barnett’s folly at James Price Point.”
In January this year, Woodside started bulldozing ancestral burial sites in Walmadan, an act that enraged indigenous communities. “Hundreds if not thousands of people were prepared to stop Woodside from working in the sand dune area at Walmadan, which has great cultural significance to the Traditional Owners,” Schneiders said.
Schneiders, in a statement, also calls for Barnett to end this “appalling project” for good and asks him for a time to heal the pain of the indigenous people in WA. He said,
This development was opposed by people all around Australia and the world, but nowhere stronger than by the brave Broome community who stood up to hundreds of police alongside the Traditional Custodians who wanted to treasure their cultural heritage.
The Wilderness Society still wants answers on why a compromised Western Australian Environment Protection Authority was allowed to approve the project when there were so many flaws in the environmental and social impact assessment.
Victory, but the fight is not yet over
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) said the battle to save the Kimberley has come to define a new generation of Australian environmental activists, many of whom have taken the opportunity to visit the Kimberley, get the red dirt on their feet, and will now feel personally connected to it for life.
The ACF also notes how rallies and festivals brought the Kimberley to the nation’s capital cities where hundreds of thousands of exceptional Australians have collectively said: ‘No, the Kimberley is too precious to lose.’ It adds the project lost its social license long ago and with Woodside’s announcement, it has now lost its economic licence.
While Woodside is exploring other alternative options to salvage what remains in the project, the AFC warns the battle is not yet over. “Put simply, this means that the industrialisation of James Price Point and west Kimberley remain a possibility,” it said, concluding:
We will continue to update you on what this means, but for today at least take a moment to feel proud that because of Australia’s standing strong for the Kimberley ancient songlines, dinosaur footprints, monsoon thickets, bilby colonies and the world’s largest humpback whale nursery remain protected from a gas hub.