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Australian Greenhouse Gas Emissions Underestimated, Report Says

A research team examined emissions estimated by companies in their applications and compared these with data reported to a regulator

greenhouse gas emissions
Smoke billows from a chemical factory in Hefei in China's Anhui province. Photo: Reuters.


Gas and mining projects in Australia are emitting significantly more greenhouse gases (GHGs) than operators promised, with an environmental group reporting on Thursday that one pipeline was releasing 20 times the initial estimate.

During an 18-month investigation, researchers from the Australian Conservation Foundation found one-in-five fossil fuel companies reporting their emissions had exceeded the amount approved by the government.

One gas pipeline in the state of Queensland, operated by Origin Energy, has released 2,000% over the amount it predicted before the project was approved.

Meanwhile, Chevron’s Gorgon liquefied natural gas (LNG) project off Australia’s west coast – operated with partners ExxonMobil, Shell, Osaka Gas, Tokyo Gas and JERA – was found to have emitted double the emissions initially promised.

Chevron’s draft environmental impact statement boasted the Gorgon project “will be among the most efficient LNG developments in the world” using a carbon capture and storage project to reduce emissions to 4 million tonnes of carbon equivalent annually.

The actual annual emissions reported from 2016-20 instead averaged 7.99 million tonnes, the equivalent of 1.7 million vehicles driven for a year, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

To determine these figures, the research team examined the GHG emissions estimated by companies in their applications for government approval and compared these with emissions reported to a regulator once the project was up and running.

These emissions include carbon dioxide, methane and other GHGs.

As part of its investigation, the Australian Conservation Fund also looked at emissions from coal mines and found a similar pattern of underestimation.

It found Whitehaven‘s Maules Creek coal mine was emitting up to 4.5 times its initial estimate, while those reported by Anglo American‘s Grosvenor mine to the Clean Energy Regulator were about double the amount forecast.

The researchers say there are a range of reasons for the gap between estimated and actual emissions, including a reassessment of how damaging methane is compared with other GHGs.

But even adjusting for that, the group found 20% of projects emitted significantly more GHG than their operator predicted.

The findings come as the International Energy Agency announced on Tuesday that global emissions by the energy sector were about 70% higher than official government figures.


  • AFP, with additional editing by George Russell




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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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