Government’s ‘dirty favour for Santos’ bill passes with opposition support


A government bill that paves the way for Santos’ controversial Barossa offshore gas project passed the Senate last night with the support of the opposition, following a marathon week-long debate.

The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill facilitates cross-border carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects.

Gas company Santos has publicly stated it has been working with the Australian Government to progress regulation to allow it to transport carbon dioxide from its Barossa Gas project to its proposed Bayu-Undan carbon capture and storage facility.

The sea dumping bill will also open Australia up to other countries being able to transport their carbon dioxide waste in Australian waters.

CCS projects have failed to sequester significant emissions despite decades of government and industry support.

Key Findings:

  • The Australian Government has stated the legislation is necessary to meet Australia’s obligations under recent amendments to the international London protocol, a global ocean treaty on the prevention of marine pollution. The original objective of the London protocol is an agreement to control and prevent marine pollution, not increase it
  • The Australian Government has proposed that its amendments that would “provide a means for countries to respond to the real urgency of climate change”
  • In March 2022 Santos indicated that would need government support to progress regulatory frameworks and approvals to enable it to legally transport CO2 from its gas projects to its proposed Bayu-Undan carbon capture and storage project. Santos claimed it could not make a final investment decision on the Bayu-Undan CCS project until the relevant regulatory frameworks were in place
  • In May 2023 this was reiterated with Santos saying “Santos is working with the governments of Australia and Timor-Leste to progress regulatory frameworks and approvals
  • Climate-focussed CCS projects globally have a capacity of less than 10 million tonnes per year. Santos proposes to double global capacity, despite the company never having completed a similar project
  • Other important environmental legislation has stalled, such as the extension of the ‘water trigger’ to cover shale gas projects, while this bill has been prioritized

“The name of this bill suggests it is about protecting oceans and fighting climate change, but actually it is nothing more than a dirty favour for oil and gas company, Santos,” said Rod Campbell, Research Director at the Australia Institute.

“Despite CCS projects’ global reputation for failure, neither the Australian Government, the opposition nor government agencies have applied any scrutiny to Santos’ claims.

“Santos claims its CCS project will store 10 million tonnes of greenhouse pollution per year. This would make it 2.5 times larger than any existing project and would double the global capacity of climate-focused CCS projects.

“It is shocking that as Australia heads into a potentially deadly summer, Australia’s major parties are collaborating to enable fossil fuel expansion while delaying measures that would reduce emissions.

“This is not the first time Santos has had bespoke legislation created for it. Australia Institute research has shown that Santos was instrumental in having a carbon credit method for carbon capture and storage created by the Australian Government.”