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Did you know what pollutants come from a Gas Plant?

15 Sep 2010 at 9:52pm

Here are the Woodside emissions of hydrocarbons and selected other pollutants (2003/4):

Benzene: a recognised carcinogen that has been shown in clinical tests to cause Acute Myelogenous Leukaemia, Acute Lymphatic Leukaemia, Chronic Myelogenous Leukaemia, Chronic Lymphatic Leukaemia, Hodgkin’s Disease and Hairy Cell Leukaemia. Also recognised as a developmental and reproductive toxicant. Long-term exposure can affect normal blood production and can be harmful to the immune system. Benzene has been linked with birth defects in both animals and humans. Ranked as one of the most hazardous compounds(worst 10%) to ecosystems and human health. In the USA the use of benzene has been banned for many years.
Woodside’s emission of benzene is stated to be 880,000 kg/year (the highest in Australia), but is probably underreported and in reality higher than that, particularly as it has been reported at 1,100,000 kg/year previously, and production has since increased significantly. The true figure is likely to be between 1,500,000 and 2,000,000 kg/year in 2005.

Cyclohexane: can irritate the skin, eyes, nose and throat. Exposure can cause nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness and drowsiness. Unconsciousness and death may occur at high exposures.
Woodside claims to emit 920,000 kg/year (highest in Australia).

Ethylbenzene: a carcinogen that is also suspected to be a cardiovascular or blood toxicant, developmental toxicant, and an endocrine, gastrointestinal, kidney and reproductive toxicant, as well as a neurotoxicant.
Woodside claims to emit 310,000 kg/year (highest in Australia).

n-Hexane: long exposure leads to paralysis of the arms and legs, and in laboratory animal tests the liquid’s vapours led to nerve and lung damage.
Woodside claims to emit a staggering 2,200,000 kg/year (highest in Australia).

Toluene (methylbenzene): the solvent of model glues, the subject of much substance abuse.
Wooside claims to emit 1,500,000 kg/year (highest in Australia).

Xylenes: affect the brain. Exposure can cause headaches, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness, confusion, and changes in one’s sense of balance. Exposure of people to high levels of xylene for short periods can also cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat; difficulty in breathing; problems with the lungs; delayed reaction time; memory difficulties; stomach discomfort; and possibly changes in the liver and kidneys. Can cause unconsciousness and even death.
Woodside’s declared emission of xylenes is 620,000 kg/year (highest in Australia).

Total volatile organic compounds: Woodside has declared that it emitted 36,000,000 kg/year (highest in Australia) in 2003-2004. This quantity is probably well below real levels.

Oxides of nitrogen: major contributor to the acidification of precipitation (‘acid rain’). Since it began operations over 20 years ago, Woodside has lied about its NOx emissions, claiming them to be 5600 t/year until we caught them on 26 March 2003. They now claim to emit 12,000,000 kg/year.

Carbon monoxide: A poisonous gas. Woodside’s declared emissions are 680,000 kg/year.

Carbon dioxide: the principal “greenhouse” gas. Woodside does not declare its emission of this gas, but it is believed to be in the order of 12,000,000,000 kg/year, the highest in Australia.

The Dampier Woodside plant is Australia’s largest pollution source of most of the significant hydrocarbon pollutants, all of which are damaging to human health. The Dampier pollution plume is so dense that it is detected by rain radar every day of the year, and registered as light to heavy rain (see image above). In terms of its visibility on radar, it is greater than the sum total of all other Australian pollution clouds detectable by radar.

26 December 2009 – Woodside’s partners, Shell, Chevron and BHP, accept Colin Barnett’s direction to build their Browse LNG plant at Broome, rather than pump the gas to Dampier for processing. Barnett thus saves Dampier from a massive increase in acidic emissions which would have devastated the rock art.

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  1. Tim Wootton says:

    “But that’s Ok because the government says as long as we create jobs and pay royalties and give donations to politicians, we can do what we like!”
    Gotta love multi-national resource companies. Not!

  2. Mate the dirt I have been digging up has been a real eye opener. This is just the tip of the iceberg. It is good to finally work out why it always looked like it was raining in Karratha on the BOM radar. Unbelievable that there is that much pollution in the air. The people of Dampier and Karratha must be worried about their long term health surely.

  3. Matt Lauder says:

    Wow that is quite a cocktail of pollutants an the volume each years combined is massive. The people of Dampier and Karratha have to be directly effected. I bet Woodside knows they will be affected and has weighed up the profit over the legal payout in the years to come when people start showing signs of exposure and dying and as long as they are in the green for shareholders it’s all good.

    Sounds like a James Hardie situation waiting to happen.

    Wish I cold make the 1st of October to support this.

  4. Tim Wootton says:

    I am amazed that they actually publish these figures! Either people who live there don’t care or they just don’t know.
    No wonder they aren’t keen on paying extra tax, look what they give Australia for free!

  5. David Sobik says:

    Holy crap! I have spent a bit of time in Karratha. I wonder how many people know of this? Your doing a fantastic job CF, lots of people visit here (your blog) each day and they all will be spreading the word as well.

    Capture some amazing images up there mate.


  6. Tom Parkes says:

    Great work for publishing these figures!

    Did you see Ross Garnaut on the 7:30 report last night?
    Same transparent lies regarding environmental impacts of mining, these guys are economists and not scientists.

  7. Nigel Gaunt says:

    Great that toxic cloud will shade Broome from that sun on those hot day’s something to look forward to, not!!!
    Keep up the good work CF

  8. Will Ophuis says:

    yeah don’t wanna be near any of that stuff!

  9. hazel says:

    I moved my family from Manchester to Perth to avoid lots of pollutions in the air and now they are here! Christian you should send these statistics to Geoff Hutchinson at the ABC. He’s on air every morning 8.30 – 12. I know he would be very interested.

  10. Pete Hodgson says:

    Great idea Hazel! I like his program and find it very informative and interesting. I think he has a pretty good audience as well.

  11. Christian says:

    Thanks everyone it is so shocking to me too. I missed the report on the gold mine in png Tom. My wife saw it and said it was incredibly bad what they are doing there. I was on the phone to Nigel talking about JPP.
    Just checked the bom radar and what!! It is raining on the burrup, but they haven’t recorded any rain today. Ha it must be all that pollution I guess.
    Great idea hazel, might just slip him the link to the info.

  12. hazel says:

    Hey guys sure you have heard by now that Oprah Winfrey is coming to STRALIA! There is some debate going on as to whether she will visit WA. Personally I don’t give a damn but just think if she was to come how would it be if she could see this video first!! Christian, anyone got any ideas of how we can get this beautiful video to her. There must be a way.

  13. Brett Morgan says:

    Great to see the passion you are putting into this CF but the harsh reality is we are also getting it over Perth there are mostly the same Pollutions getting spilt over our state and city from the Kwinana strip there is Aluminum refineries there and Petrochemical plants that put out the same chemicals.
    I was working in Kwinana when this flew thing from Mexico was going on and we had all of the Plant we were building coming from Mexico and when I questioned the fact and that also it was getting Bypassed through quarantine I got the arse very prompt indeed so people don’t like dirt thats for sure eh.’
    Keep up the great work wish I could make it to JPP but can’t :(.

  14. André says:

    Thanks for these Christian, spurred me to search around. I did a bit more research to find out more about these chemicals and found some interesting stuff. Any reason you use the 2003/04 figures? On the Australian Department of the Environment site there is the current reported numbers. Have a look at the National Pollutant Inventory at:


    I haven’t looked at each of the chemicals you list above but unfortunately, I don’t see that much will be changing in a hurry unless WE DO SOMETHING about it. Most of the chemicals you list are the byproducts of processing hydrocarbons, ie refineries.

    You quote that benzene was released in large quantities at the Woodside plant. That is the 2003/04 figure. The 08/09 figure lists 200,000. That is a very significant reduction over the figure you quote above. I suspect they have improved their filtering at the plant but I also suspect that they are capturing more of that benzene as it is a very important chemical used in all kinds of applications, so they make more money selling it then releasing it in the air.

    As you say, it has been banned in the USA but it also has been banned here in Australia. What is banned is its use in the agricultural industry as an anti-fungal for citrus fruits. There is still plenty of benzene being used around the whole world just look at what benzene gets used for: “More than half of the benzene produced each year is converted to ethylbenzene, then to styrene, and then to polystyrene”

    Products made from styrene which uses benzene: ” range from packaging materials, such as the box that protects your CDs to food service items like the plastic yoghurt container that keeps your food fresh, to a myriad of consumer electronics, construction, transportation and medical applications. ”
    I am sure most of us has some within arms reach!! 🙁

    How many of us use some type of vegetable oil when cooking? Well, the major use for solvents containing n-hexane is to extract vegetable oils from crops such as soybeans, flax, peanuts, and safflower seed. Now there is a good reason to use olive oil!!

    I hope I don’t come across as a supporter of the chemical/petroleum industry, as I’m not.

    What is important to take from my message and also for Christian’s message is that there are some nasty chemicals being produced/used out there.

    Not to mention that we need petrol for our cars, propane for our bbq, etc etc.

    We need to consume less, be well informed. It starts and ends with us, so we need to be responsible. An individual can make a difference, look at what Christian and Michael are achieving.

    Sorry for the long post CF. Keep up the good work. Happy to dig up more info if you need me to.



  15. Christian says:

    Would get Michael on to that Hazel but he is away in the Kimberley as we speak. I guess tourism WA would know how to contact her or her people.

    Yep Brett it is everywhere. And it is probably killing us all slowly!

    Nice investigative work Andre and valid points. Keep it coming. The only way we can change things is by educating ourselves and others about what really goes on. The info I got for this post I found when looking up Aboriginal rock art on the Burrup. This was put together by a group trying to stop Woodside putting its plant there and ruining the art. Didn’t help though as in the end the big company did what it wanted.

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