Production of the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) at our Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) facility in late 2015 was truly a milestone — not just for our company, but for our industry partners, the Gladstone Region and wider economies in Queensland, Australia. The multi-train LNG facility is part of a joint venture project between ConocoPhillips, Origin Energy and Sinopec that also includes the development of coal seam gas (CSG) resources in central southwest Queensland and a 323-mile transmission pipeline. It is one of the world’s first projects to convert CSG to LNG.
We are responsible for construction and operation of the Curtis Island LNG facility. By incorporating sustainability considerations into project planning efforts, we worked to reduce impact to the environment while maximizing opportunities for stakeholder communities. As with all capital projects, sustainability guidelines and program approvals were aligned with specific functional and management processes to assess and mitigate risks related to climate change, water, biodiversity and social performance. The LNG facility was designed in accordance with leading environmental and sustainable practices, and stakeholder engagement was an integral part of project planning.
“Australia Pacific LNG aspires to be at the forefront of sustainable practices, driving continual improvement in the areas of safety, business conduct, environment, community and social engagement and economic activities. We will ensure that sustainable practices are an integral element of the way we conduct business and will develop and maintain systems to drive continuous improvement. The success of Australia Pacific LNG is contingent on the success of carrying out this commitment to our employees, our contractors, and the communities in which we operate,” said APLNG Chief Executive Officer Page Maxson.
APLNG is already the largest producer of natural gas in Eastern Australia, supplying gas to power stations for production of lower emissions electricity, major industrial customers, homes and businesses. The project will continue producing gas for domestic use and will be a source of major investment, creating thousands of jobs throughout the life of the business, increasing local skills and boosting regional economies.
Flaring — the safety practice of burning off excess gases — is normal and required for the safe operation of an LNG facility. The flare is a critical safety feature in any facility handling hydrocarbons as it collects and disposes hydrocarbons that may be released during startup and shutdown, ship loading and abnormal process conditions.
At the APLNG facility, ground flares (shielded by an enclosure) were installed for several reasons. Designed to be smokeless under all specified operating conditions, the ground flare system is a leading design for emissions management, and for reducing aesthetic impact and light disturbance to local communities. During the design stage, a significant effort was made to also integrate equipment and processes that reduce the need to flare as well as reduce flaring volumes. This type of flare burns more cleanly than the conventional elevated stack flare and results in fewer GHG emissions overall. Additionally, the reduced light lessens the potential effect the plant operations may have on marine mammals and turtles and subsequent nesting and breeding behaviors.
Gladstone Water Pipeline
As part of the environmental approval process, project planners investigated the feasibility of common use infrastructure for water and wastewater services and decided to do things a little differently. Instead of building a desalination plant for seawater, the typical response to operating in this type of situation, we opted to fund and support the construction of pipelines to connect infrastructure on Curtis Island with mainland utilities. This effort significantly reduced harbor traffic associated with water supply to the LNG projects and eliminated the release of an average of 5 million barrels per year of brine and treated effluent to Gladstone Harbor.
Additionally, the company reduced carbon emissions and minimized the operational footprint by eliminating the need for a desalination plant and wastewater treatment facility. The pipeline solution is saving millions across the life cycle of the project and reducing the capital expenditure by an estimated $72 million.
“The pipeline was a win for industry and for the community,” said Kent Anderson, ConocoPhillips’ project manager, Australia Pacific LNG. “Gladstone Harbor is within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and is a popular recreation area for local residents. People use it for boating and other activities, so a solution that preserved its natural characteristics was good for all of us.”
The water pipeline is also influencing broader business practices as other operators on Curtis Island are using the water pipeline and one operator has been able to idle its desalination plant, reducing effluent brine and GHG emissions.
A landmark conservation initiative undertaken by APLNG saw nearly two-thirds of Curtis Island protected for environmental conservation, safeguarding the island’s unique ecology and heritage for future generations. This combined effort by three natural gas companies includes:
- Purchase of the Monte Christo property on Curtis Island in order to transfer the titles to the State Government.
- Protection of land, either as newly declared conservation park or national park, or existing protected areas upgraded to national park under the Nature Conservation Act.
- Removal of cattle grazing from acquired areas in the Curtis Island Conservation Park and Curtis Island State Forest.
Combined with the existing National Park on the island, more than 59% of Curtis Island will be actively managed under a conservation management plan, compared to the 2% used by the LNG projects on the southern tip of Curtis Island.
Additionally, our APLNG operation supports the Quoin Island Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. The facility is licensed by the Queensland Government and is supported by both the specialists at Australia Zoo and Sea World. APLNG has been the primary funder of the center since 2013, providing funding assistance for food, medical and veterinary expenses, rescue boat and volunteer transport.
Benefitting Local People
We place a high value on relationships with local communities, landowners, contractors and local government and strive to be a great neighbor and a responsible corporate citizen. During the construction phase of APLNG, we maximized local workforce participation so that local residents would benefit from the project.
Developing local suppliers was a key element for APLNG. We conducted 46 supplier information sessions throughout Australia with more than 5,700 people in attendance. We worked to purchase goods and services locally, giving local contractors and suppliers the opportunity to participate in projects through a competitive bid process. More than $200 million (AUD) of investment was also committed for community funding, roads and transport infrastructure, upgrades to regional airports and local training opportunities.
Approximately 78% of the project expenditure to date occurred in Australia, and 57% within the State of Queensland, bringing substantial benefits to the national and local economies. This expenditure resulted in the purchase of goods and services from local and interstate suppliers and included payment of wages and contract service agreements, generating flow-on benefits at local, regional and national levels.
Engaging with Indigenous Peoples
Wherever our operations involve Indigenous communities, we seek to partner and engage with them to minimize impacts from resource development and maximize the social and economic benefits we can bring. We applied our sustainable development principles to deliver a successful local Indigenous content strategy in the Gladstone region as part of our commitment to sustainable operations.
“Our APLNG Indigenous Engagement Strategy centers around improving opportunities for Indigenous-owned companies, increased employment, retention and career development of local indigenous people, positively contributing to Indigenous economic and social development, and respecting cultural heritage,” said Warwick King, president, Australia-East. Safety We started 2015 facing a challenge to our safety performance at APLNG, with nine recordable injuries in the first two months. The diversity and changing makeup of the workforce made it difficult to establish a safety culture. To address this, we worked with our partners and planned a yearlong safety strategy. As a result, the downstream construction project achieved a greater than 60% reduction in the total recordable rate (TRR) from 1.06 TRR in February 2015 to 0.38 TRR in December 2015 and included four consecutive months without a recordable injury. This step-change in performance reflected a renewed level of collaboration between all on-site teams. One of the strategies included a “Boots on the Ground” campaign, with the project team engaging with the workforce to recognize safe behaviors and challenge unsafe behaviors. A structured approach to proactively identify root causes of safety incidents was also implemented.
One of the most successful elements to this effort was the work to enhance the existing Project Safety Roundtable process. This resulted in increasing accountability for the roundtable members to distribute safety information to their teams and taking responsibility for incident investigations in their work area. It also included the development of safety plans based on upcoming 30- and 90-day work plans, trade mentoring and behavior-based programs, and a “Blue Hat” program to support the transition from the construction phase to commissioning and startup by providing knowledgeable and easily recognizable safety specialists.