The Chevron operated Gorgon development is at risk of temporary closure due to safety concerns at the gas plant.
Concerns have been raised at the plant, located on Barrow Island, off Western Australia’s Pilbara coast, after workers reported cracks in pressurised propane kettles on one of the site’s three LNG trains during a routine shutdown for maintenance work. The other two are understood to be unaffected,
The cracks were discovered between 8-11 kettles on Train 2 have been discovered by the non-destructive testing team.
Thousands of cracks are reported to have been found, some up to one metre long and up to 30mm deep.
Chevron, who holds the majority stake in the plant, alongside part owners Exxon Mobile and Royal Dutch Shell, is understood to be conducting urgent testing of other essential equipment, including heat exchanges and propane kettles at the site.
The plant supplies gas to domestic markets and exports to Asia.
In a statement quoted by the Australian Associated Press (AAP), Chevron said they were investigating the propane kettles and that appropriate authorities had been notified.
“Maintenance turnarounds are a regular part of safely operating natural gas plants and provide an opportunity to undertake various inspections, repairs and equipment changeouts to ensure safe and reliable operations,” AAP quote a Chevron spokesperson.
“The Chevron-operated Gorgon Train 2 turnaround commenced in May and we are pleased with the strong progress made to date, with scheduled work mechanically complete.”
The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union has called on Chevron to immediately close the plant and conduct an independent investigation and conduct testing on all three trains, citing worker safety concerns.
“The reports we’re hearing of over eight kettles being damaged represents a serious failure in this critical piece of kit,” AMWU State Secretary Steve McCartney said.
“If multiple kettles are showing cracks in testing on Train 2, there is a high risk there are cracks in the vessels on other trains. If these cracks are in the vessels, they cannot be fixed and they need to be replaced immediately.”
“These kettles are carrying pressurised propane, and the trains are lined up next to each other on the plate. We’re hearing from workers that they’re fearful for their safety and are reluctant to even go out to the blast-proof wall. We share their fears.”