This article by Save Westernport appeared in the August-September edition of “The Bridge”

A New Gas Fired Power Station in Westernport Bay ?

In 2021 Esso Hastings announced plans to install three new ethane powered electricity

generators at their plant at Long Island Point. At first glance it might seem like a good

idea for Esso to use this major waste product from processing gas to generate power,

but Esso’s project application reveals dozens of serious impacts and unanswered

questions, including increased greenhouse gas emissions on the Mornington Peninsula,

the removal of native vegetation to construct electrical transmission lines, and industrial

noise exceeding 100dB from the planned 24 hour operation of the generators. Esso

proposes building a 15 x 45m wall “to reduce noise impacts” on residents to the south of

the site, but this would do very little to limit the effects of constant industrial noise on

residents and wildlife across the water on French Island, within the Ramsar wetlands.

Noise impacts on shorebirds and their mangrove roosting sites appear to have been

overlooked in Esso’s Noise assessment reports. Links to these reports are below.

The uncertainties of the proposal, and Esso’s close proximity to Westernport’s

internationally accredited Ramsar Wetlands prompted Save Westernport to object to

Esso’s plans and call for an Environment Effects Statement (EES) to allow its impacts,

and each of Esso’s claims to be independently assessed. Our submissions to EPA

Victoria and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) were

endorsed by 12 local groups and Environment Victoria.

Esso’s stakeholder engagement has been inadequate; Esso has failed to engage with

the community at any stage of the project’s development. Finally in May, in response to

public requests the EPA arranged an information session. Unfortunately it was not

publicised in advance. Regardless of how Esso managed their public relations in the

past, they should know that accountability and transparency are valued more highly than

they once were. A few notices in the local paper do not even fulfill Esso’s own guidelines

on stakeholder engagement: “to provide information in advance of consultation activities

and decision-making.”

We believe Esso has seriously misrepresented their project, and we question their

claims in the WP News that the project would “have good environmental outcomes for

our community” and “reduce the need to flare at Long Island Point”. Esso hasn’t

explained how this reduction would be achieved. Ethane is the main by-product of

Esso’s gas processing plant. Since the 1970s Esso has piped their waste ethane to

Altona, where Qenos has used it to manufacture plastics.

The recent closure of Qenos at Altona has forced Esso to find an alternative use for their

byproduct ethane. This is the reason behind this strange project. Other by-products from

Esso’s gas processing plant, CO2, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, volatile organic

compounds (VOCs), nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and formaldehyde will either continue

to escape as emissions or will still be flared over Hastings. Using ethane to power a

generator will not change that.

We believe Esso has expected Westernport communities to compensate for the

environmental harms of their commercial operations for too long.

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Esso has applied to dispose of waste Ethane by burning it at Long Island Point. While this will

generate its own emissions, Esso has been unable to supply details in their project reports. Ethane

seems to be entirely untested in power generation. The use of ethane in electricity generation is

such a novel process, we’ve been unable to find examples of ethane in electricity generation

anywhere in the world. All available information in Esso’s data relates to the use of methane,

NOT ethane. Esso has provided no details either of the volume of existing emissions at

Hastings, or the predicted increase from burning ethane.

Residents of Crib Point, Bittern, Hastings, Balnarring, Somers and other townships on

the Mornington Peninsula as well as communities on French Island and Phillip Island

have long opposed any new industrial development or facilities around Western Port Bay

that may have adverse impacts on the ecological character of the region including

impacts on the local environment, flora, fauna and migratory species.

In 2020 Mornington Peninsula Shire Council adopted a Climate Emergency Response

Plan that provides clear priorities and actions to guide the Mornington Peninsula towards

zero carbon emissions by 2040. Esso’s project would increase greenhouse gas

emissions and does not comply with the Climate Emergency Plan for the Mornington

Peninsula. We believe Esso must do more to find a solution to excess ethane production

at Long Island Point that does not increase greenhouse gas emissions on the

Mornington Peninsula or cause other adverse impacts for our community or our

environment.

Greenhouse gases must not be transferred from Altona to the Mornington

Peninsula.

EPA Victoria should reject this development licence application by Esso and recommend

that a full Environment Effects Statement (EES) is required of this Project in order to

identify all environmental effects and other adverse impacts.

Save WP submissions and Esso’s project reports here:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/1KT1RJ4AWzWB0JwbyLQrJ64503m3z6Cid/edit?usp=doc

slist_api&filetype=msword

Since the success of the campaign against AGL, decision-makers are acutely aware of how

engaged this community is on climate and our local environment. Projects that evoke strong

community responses are scrutinised far more closely. Esso’s project is unworthy of approval.

Please contact:

DELWP: development.approvals@delwp.vic.gov.au (03) 8508 0645

EPA Victoria: permissioning.engagement@epa.vic.gov.au

and Lizzie Blandthorn, Victoria’s new Minister for Planning:

lizzie.blandthorn@parliament.vic.gov.au Ministerial Office: (03) 8683 0964

If you’re a resident of Hastings or the Mornington Peninsula, please tell them. State your strong

Objection to Esso’s Application #PA2201534 and call for an EES to ensure that Esso’s claims on

Emissions are independently assessed, along with the numerous potential impacts on these

Ramsar Wetlands.