Friday, January 27, 2012

Calls for new Browse gas hub site mounting


18:30 AEDT Fri Jan 27 2012

Calls are mounting for Woodside Petroleum to reconsider plans to process Browse Basin gas on the environmentally significant Kimberley coast of Western Australia.

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) on Friday said the Kimberley coastline was an inappropriate site for a large industrial project.

"The James Price Point gas hub proposal has stoked up so much opposition on so many fronts that many investors are now asking if the project is still viable, or if Woodside has already lost its social licence to proceed," ACF Kimberley officer Wade Freeman said.

Mr Freeman's comments came after Woodside said it was considering selling down its 50 per cent stake in the $US30 billion ($A28.32 billion) project.

He said gas from the Browse Basin should be piped to less environmentally sensitive locations such as the Woodside-operated North West Shelf in the Pilbara region, a view shared by some business analysts.

The ACF has also been critical of the role that the Colin Barnett-led state government has played in the project, an opinion echoed on Friday by new WA opposition leader Mark McGowan.

The WA government in 2010 started the process of compulsorily acquiring land at James Price Point after the premier became frustrated by legal disputes among native title claimant groups.

A court last year ruled that the notices of land acquisition were invalid because they did not provide enough detail, so fresh notices of intent to take the land will need to be lodged.

Mr McGowan said the premier's interference in the proposed project had caused delays.

"He upset the indigenous people of the Kimberley, he upset the non-indigenous people of the Kimberley with his activities," Mr McGowan told reporters.

"He claims he's a can-do sort of guy.

"All it's resulted in is business nervousness."

Dampier Peninsula Flood Warning

Water lily research flourishing in the Kimberley

Written by Geoff Vivian Wednesday, 18 January 2012 12:00

Science Network Western Australia

NymphaeaviolaceaDried Nymphaea violacea seeds are ground into flour for damper, the raw stems are eaten like celery and the tubers boiled and roasted as a vegetable. Image:eyeweed

A KINGS Park botanist is studying propagation viability of water lilies (Nymphaeacea), which occur in high-rainfall areas of Northern Australia.

Emma Dalziell who has made several collecting trips to the Kimberley, Darwin and Kakadu is collaborating with the Millennium Seed Bank Project (MSB) at Kew Gardens in England.

“Many of the storage techniques I’m using have arisen from King’s Parks longstanding research collaboration with the MSB,” she says.

“My PhD is specifically focusing on seed biology, long term storage behaviour of all Nymphaeacea occurring in Australia,” she says.

The seeds are subject to a variety of stimuli to assess their viability, and define suitable habitat types and appropriate storage and propagation conditions for possible reintroduction or restoration programs.

She says unlike Northern Hemisphere species, Australian lilies are adapted to long dry winters and the hot monsoonal conditions of Northern Australia’s “wet”.

They tolerate seed desiccation and can often grow, flower and produce seed in a relatively short time.

She says Australian lilies need a temperature range of 30–35 degrees Celcius to germinate.

“They are physiologically dormant,” she says. “They are waiting for various environmental cues.”

Ms Dalziell is also assessing the various species’ adaptability to climate change and related conditions such as increased salinity.

She gave the example of a two-centimetre rise in sea level, which could produce salt water inundations extending as far as five kilometres inland at Kakadu National Park.

Australian lilies have just been subjected to taxonomic review and there are now 18 recognised species across Northern Australia.

These range from Nymphaea violacea, which grows in a wide variety of habitats, to Nymphaea ondinea which is restricted to the extremely pure waters of sandstone creeks in only six known Kimberley locations.

Even rarer is Nymphaea kimberleyensis, which is known to occur in just one waterhole in a Central Kimberley cattle station.

Ms Dalziell says lilies are still an important food source for Aboriginal peoples across Northern Australia.

Dried Nymphaea violacea seeds are ground into flour for damper, the raw stems are eaten like celery and the tubers boiled and roasted as a vegetable.

Ms Dalziell says compared to other taxa, there has been very little research into Australian lilies’ biology and ecology.

Rare finch find restores rescue hopes

NICOLA KALMAR, Broome Advertiser
Updated January 27, 2012, 7:59 am
Rare finch find restores rescue hopes
Sarah Pryke ©

Hopes of rescuing one of Australia’s most endangered birds from the brink of extinction have been restored after the discovery of a breeding population of the rare Gouldian finch near Broome.
The discovery was made by indigenous Bardi Jawi and Bard Jawi Oorany rangers working with WWF Australia and Environs Kimberley on the Dampier Peninsula.
Environmental groups have welcomed the find and said there could be more findings of Gouldian finch in the Kimberley.
Bardi Jawi senior cultural ranger Kevin George said the find was “very exciting” for the rangers and the community, and said the first sighting of the finch was before Christmas.
There are believed to be fewer than 2500 adult birds surviving in the wild, as the population has declined steadily over the past 50 years.
Scientists have attributed fire regimes, cattle and throat parasites to decreasing numbers.
Mr George said the next step would be to implement a management plan to protect the species and continuing to work with elders and the community.
An important part in securing the future of the Gouldian finch was educating the younger generation in caring for wildlife and conservation, Mr George said.
Environs Kimberley projects co-ordinator Louise Beames described the finding as “exciting and significant”.
She said the birds had declined rapidly over much of orthern Australia due to a combination cattle and intensive fire regimes. Ms Beames said it was critical to continue to work with Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul rangers.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Press Release: 2011 Kimberley Cetacean Report Released


Kimberley Whale Watching has just released their 2011 Kimberley Cetacean Report 2011.  The report highlights the importance of the Dampier Peninsula and the Kimberley's outer shoals and reefs to the Breeding Stock D population of Humpback whales.

Breeding Stock D is thought to be the world's largest population of whales and undertakes and annual migration from the frigid waters of the Antarctic to the Kimberley's warm tropical waters to mate and give birth.

Richard Costin of Kimberley Whale Watching says "the Commonwealth Government should reassess its priorities and the boundaries for the proposed Kimberley Marine Reserve, and extend the boundaries along the Dampier Peninsula south to Eco Beach and upgrade the classification to IUCN 2.

"This is essential" Mr Costin says "to provide protection for the main breeding grounds for the Breeding Stock D population of Humpback whales.

The report is available for download from Kimberley Whale Watching's website:


Woodside kicks off $1bn Browse sale as plans for processing plant may be axed

WOODSIDE Petroleum has launched a $1 billion-plus auction of most of its 50 per cent stake in the huge Browse gas project in Western Australia, in a move that could kill off controversial plans to build a processing plant on the Kimberley coast.
Sources say the formal auction process began after Woodside was approached by scores of companies over the past 12 months over a potential selldown.
Indicative bids for the Browse stake are being lodged but any sale could take several months to finalise, especially in light of Woodside's announcement last month that it would be unable to proceed with the $40bn project for at least another year.

The potential sale comes amid industry speculation that Browse's 14.3 trillion cubic feet of reserves will soon be increased through the inclusion of additional sources under Scott Reef, an environmentally sensitive part of the Browse Basin, that were previously thought to be inaccessible.
The Australian understands that Woodside may reduce its 50 per cent stake in Browse to 16.67 per cent as part of a plan to align the ownership of the Browse joint venture more closely with the North West Shelf liquefied natural gas project.

"They would go from owning half of Browse to owning about one-sixth -- that would give some symmetry around what the North West Shelf looks like," said one source familiar with the process.
The shake-up may involve Woodside selling stakes in Browse to Japanese trading houses Mitsubishi and Mitsui, which are also partners in the North West Shelf and have previously expressed an interest in Browse.

But other companies, including European groups Total, ENI and GDF Suez, are also believed to be keen to snap up equity in Browse as they seek to increase their involvement in Australia's booming LNG sector.

It is understood any equity sale would not be linked to a gas supply contract from Browse, which is due to produce 12 million tonnes of LNG a year and become one of Australia's biggest resources projects.

The North West Shelf is owned by six companies, each of which has a 16.67 per cent stake -- Woodside, BHP Billiton, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron and an alliance of Mitsubishi and Mitsui.
But Woodside owns 50 per cent of Browse, with the rest of the venture held by BHP (8.33 per cent), Shell (8.33 per cent), BP (16.67 per cent) and Chevron (16.67 per cent).
A potential complication to Woodside as it tries to dilute its stake is that its Browse partners have pre-emptive rights over any sale.

BHP, Chevron and Shell would be unlikely to buy additional equity given their existing commitments in the sector.

However, BP is known to be looking for additional investments in Australia and may want to boost its stake in Browse.

Any selldown would reduce Woodside's exposure to the Browse venture and free up capital for its spending commitments on other projects, including a planned $10bn expansion of the Pluto LNG plant near Karratha.

But it would also reduce Woodside's voting rights within the Browse joint venture and could end the Perth company's plan to process the Browse gas at a greenfields site at James Price Point, north of Broome.

Most of Woodside's Browse partners favour piping the gas to the North West Shelf in the Pilbara when reserves at that project start to run low later this decade, thereby extending the life of the investment.

Significantly, a dilution of Woodside's equity interest in Browse would reduce its commercial incentive to process the gas as quickly as possible.

It would also lessen Woodside's exposure to rising project costs and fears of falling prices sparked by a possible global LNG glut. Some analysts believe the rapid development of the US shale gas industry will lead to LNG exports from North America within a decade.

Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman is believed to be far less enthusiastic about using James Price Point than his predecessor Don Voelte, due to the higher costs of a greenfields plant.
James Price Point is being vigorously opposed by environmentalists and some Kimberley indigenous people.

But it is backed by the West Australian and federal governments as well as local indigenous groups who stand to benefit from a compensation package for use of the land.
Woodside would need to convince the governments that James Price Point was not economic if it wanted to pipe the gas to the Pilbara.

Mr Coleman said last year that Woodside could sell down its stake in Browse, along with the Pluto 2 and Sunrise developments, to reduce $35bn in funding obligations for the projects when they proceed.

Merrill Lynch said in a report in September last year that Woodside's stake in Browse would be worth between $US2.2bn ($2.1bn) and $US4.3bn, based on recent gas pricing benchmarks.
This would value the equity being sold by Woodside at between $US1.4bn and $US2.7bn.
Sources familiar with the auction said the stake being pitched to potential buyers would fetch more than $1bn.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

WA Premier clings to his gas dreams

Australian Financial Review

The fate of West Australian Premier Colin Barnett’s grand vision of a natural gas processing hub on the richly picturesque Kimberley coast hangs in the balance.

Five years after the plan was formulated by the WA government, oil producer Woodside Petroleum remains the only company keen togo anywhere near the controversial James Price Point site near Broome.

One by one, other potential users of the “hub” have removed themselves from the picture, plumping for potentially easier and quicker solutions to convert their plentiful Browse Basin resources into liquefied natural gas to feed energy-hungry nations across Asia.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Shelley Gare - A whale of a dream

Adelaide Now

IMAGINE what I could do with Bill Gates' millions...
HUMANS are endearing. We insist we're all so different; then we discover matching frailties. Micheline and Curt Jenner are pioneering marine biologists who have lived on boats for almost 20 years as they follow their passion, tracking whales, dolphins and porpoises off Australia's coastline and helping protect one of the world's most valuable resources, the ocean.
And here am I, a journalist who lives safely, cautiously and drily on land, and I mostly track human-beings.
But one recent afternoon we discover a mutual foible. All three of us buy tickets in those monster multimillion-dollar lotteries. Then we don't look up the results for days, preferring to live on in our fantasies. "Dreamers!" says Curt, laughing.

There is still a big difference between us. A win for me might bring respite from the demands of daily life. For the Jenners, a winning ticket could end forever constant worries about funding their research - and their new boat.
Let me tell you about this boat, Whale Song. It is 28m long, weighs 200 tons, is steel-hulled and purpose-built for whale research. It looks like a tug-boat but it has specially sound-dampened machinery which means it can slip through the water like a sylph. The whales are oblivious. There's no other boat like it.
"We almost wet ourselves when we first saw it," says Micheline as she took me on a quick tour. That's not surprising given their research vessel back in 1990 was an inflatable rubber duckie. When I saw the staterooms below deck, with their ensuite bathrooms, the Jenners almost got themselves a stowaway.
In fact, given the massive monthly payments on the boat and what the global financial crisis has done to paid research work, they're looking for paying volunteers - rich paying volunteers - for trips far out to sea that offer an experience so unique the next closest thing might be space travel.
Right now, the Jenners and Whale Song are steaming back to WA under Australia's belly, and looking longingly towards the deep waters of the Great Australian Bight Marine Park, where southern right whales go to breed. Last year, the Federal Government gave BP a permit to look for oil and gas in the Bight and in parts of the park. The area, southwest of Ceduna, may become one of Australia's major gas and oil reserves.
What will this mean for the whales?
The Jenners, who discovered the main humpback whale breeding ground on the Kimberley coast and run the Centre for Whale Research (WA), work regularly with the big energy companies. They hope they may get involved in BP's research too. "Whales are the window to the health of the oceans," says Curt. Healthy whales, healthy seas. Healthy us.
Already, internationally, there's a program - Seakeepers - aimed at the world's wealthy who own huge yachts. If you're a Steven Spielberg, you can install sensors on board your mega-boat and help marine scientists capture essential data.
Recently, I heard a BBC interview with American oceanographer Sylvia Earle. Now 76, she is dubbed "Her Deepness" by The New Yorker. Earle is stunned by what humans have done to the oceans, "the great blue engine that keeps us alive".
My biggest regret is that I don't have Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates's number, as he holidays in Australia, to let him know about the berths going on Whale Song.
That might beat a lottery ticket.
* The Centre for Whale Research is at

Inpex confirms $33bn Top End gas project

ABC News

Japanese gas company Inpex and its French partner Total have confirmed they will proceed with their planned $33 billion Ichthys gas project in Darwin and off the coast of Western Australia.
Inpex chairman Naoki Kuroda made the announcement in Darwin today.
The company says about 8.4 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) will be produced each year once the project is up and running.
Preliminary works on the Blaydin Point gas processing plant in Darwin Harbour and a worker's camp in the city's rural area are expected to begin within weeks.
The camp will be able to house up to 2,800 workers.
The Northern Territory Government estimates several thousand workers will be needed to build the Darwin plant, which will process natural gas piped about 800 kilometres from the Browse Basin off WA's Kimberley coast.
Inpex and Total have already signed long-term sale and purchase agreements for the gas with Japanese and Taiwanese utility companies.
These cover the total projected LNG production from Ichthys for 15 years from 2017.
The first gas from the plant is expected to be produced in 2016.
Mr Kuroda says it will be one of the world's largest LNG facilities and that gas and condensate reserves in the Browse Basin would last around 40 years.
"Ichthys production volumes represent more than 10 per cent of Japan's (gas) imports at current levels," Mr Kuroda said.
In addition, the liquids-rich gas stream will also generate about 100,000 barrels of condensate a day at the peak of production.

Mr Kuroda says about 3,000 workers will be needed for the onshore construction phase, with a further 1,000 offshore.
"Once the project is in operation, we will require approximately 700 permanent positions," Mr Kuroda said.

Historic day
Chief Minister Paul Henderson says the signing of the deal marks an historic day for the Territory.
"The Territory has secured its economic future and is on the way to becoming the oil and gas capital of Australia," he said.
The Federal Government says the Inpex project in Darwin will be the "making" of the Territory for this century.
Resources Minister Martin Ferguson says the nation's combined LNG output is set to soar.
"Energy demand is growing, particularly from the powering economies of Japan and Taiwan, China and India, and this demand will continue into the foreseeable future," he said.
"It potentially means we will quadruple LNG production out of Australia within a decade."
Mr Ferguson says the Ichthys deal marks the beginning of a new era for northern Australia.
"The Ichthys project... is the second-biggest investment in a single project in the history of Australia."
Meanwhile during today's formal signing ceremony, a Japanese government minister apologised for the bombing of Darwin.
Senior vice-minister for trade Tadahiro Matsushita acknowledged the history between Japan and Darwin.
"During a certain period in the not-too-distant past, Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries," he said.
"Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology."
First posted January 13, 2012 07:48:05