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It was early April 1996 and cyclone Olivia had just formed off the Pilbara coast in Western Australia (WA). I had only been relocated to Dampier from Melbourne for two days when the cyclone reached the mainland. While I thought the wind was quite severe, what I didn’t know at the time was that off the coast in the Indian Ocean, a small, remote and sparsely populated island about 80 km away had just recorded the highest ever wind speed on land anywhere on earth at just over 400 km/hr. That remote site was Barrow Island. Fast forward to 2012, the working population on Barrow Island is more than 5500 and is the site of Australia’s largest single resource project and one of the world’s largest natural gas (LNG) projects: the Gorgon Project.
The challenge I faced the first time I worked in the Pilbara not only included cyclones, but introducing a new standard for integrating an environmental management system into Rio Tinto’s iron ore portfolio and leading to certification of these brownfields operations to the then new ISO 14001.
When I recently returned to the Pilbara, and this time to the truly remote Barrow Island, the challenge was to ensure the environmental standards were met while undertaking the civil works for construction of the LNG gas treatment plant and the temporary construction facilities. But unlike my first deployment, Barrow Island is a greenfield site and was classified in 1910 as a Class “A” Nature Reserve. This means that it is set aside for the purpose of “Conservation of Flora and Fauna”, which represents the highest level of protection afforded under WA State legislation.The Chevron-operated Gorgon LNG Project is a joint venture between the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron (approximately 47 per cent), ExxonMobil (25 per cent), Shell (25 per cent), Osaka Gas (1.25 per cent), Tokyo Gas (1 per cent) and Chubu Electric Power (0.417 per cent). The downstream construction component is being managed by the engineering procurement construction manager (or EPCM), the Kellogg Joint Venture. KJV is an unincorporated joint venture between KBR, JGC Corporation, Hatch and Clough Thiess are one of the contractors engaged on the project. Turlough Guerin managed the environmental program for Thiess initially on the Project and was then hired by Chevron to take on the larger scope of 30-40 contractor organisations and 100 contractor personnel.