Australia approves huge China, India gas project

SYDNEY: Australia Wednesday approved a massive energy project that will supply natural gas worth tens of billions of dollars to China and India, but laid down extra environmental conditions.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett said he saw no reason to block the Gorgon liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant off Western Australia, allowing it to clear the final regulatory hurdle.

The project is a joint venture by Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil, which has signed a record 41 billion US dollar contract with Chinese giant PetroChina and another worth 21 billion dollars with India's Petronet.

"I've considered it very carefully, I don't believe that there will be unacceptable (environmental) impacts and, as a consequence of that, I have made my decision today," Garrett told reporters.

Garrett said he had imposed 28 extra conditions on the project, including measures to protect turtle species on nearby Barrow Island.

"It is acceptable for the expansion to go ahead subject to the conditions," he said. "The public can have confidence that the environment of Barrow (Island) will be properly protected."

The Gorgon field, thought to hold more than 40 trillion cubic feet of gas, is expected to create thousands of jobs and pump billions of dollars into Australia's economy.