Doctors worried about Chevron's venting of toxic chemicals at Gorgon


As a result of the failure of its carbon capture and storage project, the Gorgon plant has been venting toxic chemicals including BTEX chemicals and mercury directly into the atmosphere. Dr George Crisp of Doctors for the Environment expressed serious concerns by the lack of environmental monitoring and regulation at Chevron’s Gorgon LNG facility saying, “It is not acceptable to leave it to Chevron to decide whether people were at risk. It’s the government’s responsibility to protect the health of West Australians, not Chevron."  DEA's oil and gas policy can be found here.

Chevron had also intended to inject the chemicals into the underground storage facility. Instead, during the plant’s two years of operations, these vapours have been vented direct to the atmosphere containing 300 parts per million BTEX and 13,000 micrograms of mercury per cubic metre. BTEX is a toxic blend of chemicals - – benzene (a known carcinogen), toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. 

“Benzene is toxic at levels measured in the parts per billion,” he said. “There is really no safe level of benzene, but the ‘safe’ level is 5 parts per billion. That’s like one drop in an Olympic swimming pool.

Mercury was quite a separate issue, Dr Crisp said, and concern about mercury was growing as climate change impacts became widespread. In the past 200 years of industrialisation, all the mercury burnt with coal and gas had dispersed, he said. Some had been absorbed by plants and vegetation, some was sitting on surface ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. When a forest burnt down or an ice sheet melted all that mercury was released back into the system and became available for uptake into the food chain. “So Gorgon emitting amounts of mercury contributes to a problem we already know is unfolding,” he said.

Read the full article in WA Today here.


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