From Bass Strait to soft drinks: Exxon strikes carbon deal

By Angela Macdonald-Smith

Carbon dioxide extracted from Bass Strait gas could potentially find its way into soft drinks and beer under a deal struck between ExxonMobil, BHP and industrial gases company Air Liquide.

The innovative carbon capture and reuse deal involves France’s Air Liquide building a new CO2 processing plant next to the huge Longford gas plant in Gippsland at a cost in the tens of millions of dollars to treat gas from the Bass Strait fields owned by Exxon and BHP.

The processed and purified CO2 will then be available for use in the food and beverage industry, or in other sectors such as the hospitality, manufacturing and medical industries.

Carbon dioxide from gas extracted from the Bass Strait will be purified for use in manufacturing and medical industries. James Davies

Neither Exxon, the operator of the Gippsland Basin gas venture, nor Air Liquide provided any information on the volume of gas or CO2 involved, or the commercial terms of the arrangement, which Esso Australia described as “long-term”. It comes after Exxon in November scrapped the potential multibillion-dollar sale of its oil and gas assets in the Bass Strait.

Construction of the 65,000 tonnes a year CO2 processing plant is due to start this year, subject to regulatory approvals, creating 60 jobs. Exxon will also build new facilities at Longford to be able to send CO2 directly to the Air Liquide plant. It would otherwise release the CO2 into the atmosphere through flaring so the venture will reduce its emissions at the site.

“Carbon dioxide occurs naturally in the gas sourced from the Gippsland Basin and most CO2 must be removed before the natural gas can be used to power Australian homes and businesses,” said Esso Australia chairman Nathan Fay.

Exxon earlier this week announced the creation of a new business to commercialise low-carbon technology such as carbon capture amid mounting investor pressure for the major to act on climate goals. The US firm owns a 25 per cent stake in the world’s biggest carbon capture and storage project at the Chevron-run Gorgon LNG plant in Western Australia.

Carbon dioxide is typically used in food preservation and the transportation of blood and plasma, as well as in soft drink, beer and wine production, meat and poultry processing, water treatment and cold storage.

Air Liquide managing director of Pacific industrial, Marcos Etcheverrigaray, said the arrangement would “help promote a supply of this ingredient which is vital for a great number of our Australian customers”.

The project doesn’t currently qualify for carbon credits under existing federal government schemes.

This article appeared on the Financial Review website at https://www.afr.com/companies/energy/from-bass-strait-to-soft-drinks-exxon-strikes-carbon-deal-20210305-p5787i


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