Chevron Sells Under Pressure
In a victory for Australian environmental, Aboriginal and community groups, Chevron has divested from the controversial $30 billion Browse Basin liquid natural gas (LNG) project on the northwest Australia coast. In August 2012, Chevron announced it was backing out of the project and selling its share to Royal Dutch Shell for $450 million.
Browse Basin project includes an offshore natural gas field about 300 kilometers off the Kimberley coast, plus a planned processing facility for the gas at James Price Point, 50 kilometers north of the town of Broome.
The Kimberley is one of the world's last great natural and Indigenous cultural regions, home to many Aboriginal communities and at least 27 native title (Indigenous ownership) claim groups. Its vast savannah woodlands, rivers, spectacular desert coast and rich marine environments provide habitats for an extraordinary diversity of native wildlife species, including native mammals extinct elsewhere in Australia, endemic species like the Snubfin dolphin and flatback sea turtles and the nursery area for the world's largest population of Humpback whales.
In a press release issued Aug. 21, 2012, Wilderness Society Australia said Chevron's hasty exit was a victory for community opposition:
"Financial analysts have speculated that Chevron has baulked at the challenge of building a gas hub in an area as environmentally sensitive as James Price Point, and at the difficulties imposed by the ongoing community opposition.
"In light of Chevron's cold feet, it's expected that the remaining project partners – Woodside Shell, BP, BHP Billiton and Mitsui-Mitsubishi – will find themselves under increasing pressure to abandon the strongly contested gas hub proposal and opt to process the gas at existing facilities instead."
This is a huge win for grass-roots community action, and protesters on the ground should feel proud that – with support from Australians all over the country – they're having a real influence on the decisions of multi-national oil and gas companies.
Together, we really do have the power to protect this important wilderness area from waste and destruction.
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Threatening Indigenous Communities
James Price Point is part of the traditional lands of the Jabbir Jabbir and Goolarabooloo Aboriginal people and is subject to a joint native title claim by both groups. Many of these Traditional Owners signed a declaration opposing the Chevron-Browse project. However, the government has carried out compulsory acquisition (i.e. confiscation) proceedings against the Traditional Owners for 20,571 hectares of land and sea—an area far larger than the government had said was required. The government has offered Aboriginal groups an extraordinary payoff of $1.5 billion in benefits, but the offer has been refused.
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The Wilderness Society is campaigning, alongside environmental groups including the Turtle Island Restoration Network, the Conservation Council of WA, Environs Kimberley, Save the Kimberley, The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Indigenous Traditional Owners, to stop this disaster being imposed on the Kimberley coast.
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Chevron's Assets in Australia
Chevron's holdings in Australia include a 47.3 percent interest in the Gorgon Project to develop the Greater Gorgon area gas fields, the country's largest known natural gas resource, off the coast of Northwestern Australia. The oil company also has a 72 percent interest in the Wheatstone Project natural gas facility along the West Pilbara coast, and a 57.1 percent interest in the Barrow Island crude oil production facilities, the oldest onshore oil field in Australia.
Chevron also has a 50 percent interest in Caltex Australia Ltd., the top oil refining and marketing company in the country. In 2011, Chevron's net daily production in Australia was18,000 barrels of crude oil and condensate, 4,000 barrels of liquefied petroleum gas, and 445 million cubic feet of natural gas.