WA’s gas supply takes a hit after pump fault at Chevron plant
5th September 2023

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A faulty pump at Chevron’s Wheatstone domestic gas plant has knocked out about 13 per cent of Western Australia’s gas supply.

The shutdown adds to the US LNG giant’s headaches in WA as it prepares for union-led work stoppages this week.

Chevron’s Wheatstone LNG plant could be subject to major strike action.Credit: Supplied

Chevron confirmed the facility, which normally sends about 251 terajoules of gas into the state’s gas pipeline network every day, has been offline since Monday.

“Chevron Australia is working to recommence domestic gas supply from the Wheatstone Domestic Gas Facility near Onslow, Western Australia, following a production outage,” a Chevron spokesman said.

“The cause of the outage has been identified and restart activities have commenced.

“Relevant stakeholders have been notified and we will continue to keep them informed as we work to resume production.”

The state’s Gas Energy Bulletin Board predicted the facility wouldn’t be operational until Friday but Energy Minister Bill Johnston was confident energy supply would not be impacted.

“The state government is closely monitoring the situation,” a spokeswoman said.

“At this stage we expect that any impact on the domestic gas market will be manageable, however, the State has a number of levers it can utilise to ensure stability of the system in the event of a shortfall.

“The state government expects Chevron to meet its domestic gas obligations.”

A spokesperson for the Australian Energy Market Operator said it did not anticipate any impacts to WA’s South West Interconnected System electricity grid.

“AEMO has a number of tools at its disposal to maintain system security and reliability in the SWIS, and will respond to any situation in compliance with the rules,” she said.

Strikes loom for Chevron

The Offshore Alliance has threatened Chevron with a two-week strike at its Gorgon and Wheatstone facilities in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The alliance had already planned a week of stoppages to begin this Thursday as it continues to butt heads with Chevron over new enterprise agreements for the more than 500 employees working across both facilities.

Talks overseen by the industrial umpire the Fair Work Commission that began Monday prompted the alliance to add more severe strike plans to its calendar.

The alliance, made up of members of the Maritime Union and the Australian Workers’ Union, wrote to Chevron on Monday night notifying it that workers at Gorgon and Wheatstone would take part in a fortnight of 24-hour strikes starting September 14.

The notice also included bans on overtime and maintenance work, but employees who were needed to maintain the safety and structural integrity of the facility would continue to work.

Strikes of that length could have ramifications for both global and domestic gas markets.

Gorgon exports about 15.6 million tonnes of LNG per year while Wheatstone exports 8.9 million and combined they account for more than 5 per cent of the world’s LNG production capacity.

Gorgon and Wheatstone together provide about 30 per cent of WA’s domestic gas supply.

“Offshore Alliance members are yet to exercise their lawful workplace rights to take protected industrial action and our bargaining claims will look more and more reasonable as Chevron’s Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG exports dry up,” the alliance said.

“The [alliance’s] log of claims will ultimately be claims which Chevron will agree to, but not before they lose a few billion – judging by the form guide.

“Which is OK, as Chevron clearly have plenty of loose change in the Chevron piggy bank.”

The strike threat comes after 458 Wheatstone and Gorgon employees voted down Chevron’s proposed enterprise agreements put to them last month.

The commission will oversee talks between the alliance and the union every day this week.

Rival Woodside avoided strikes last month after a marathon 15-hour negotiation resulted in pay increases between $20,000 and $50,000 a year and improved job security for workers on three offshore gas platforms that supply the North West Shelf gas export plant.

A Chevron spokesman said the company would continue to work through the bargaining process as it sought outcomes in the interests of both employees and the company.

“We will also continue to take steps to maintain safe and reliable operations in the event of disruption at our facilities,” he said.

Johnston’s spokeswoman said the government continued to urge the parties to work constructively together to find a solution to the industrial dispute.

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