Ever since the gas fractionation and crude oil storage facility first began operating in 1970, the company has gone to great lengths to minimise its impact on the environment.
“As a vital part of our Gippsland oil and gas production operations, LIP is an economic asset of national significance,” said LIP Plant Manager Kim Hahn. “We take a great deal of pride in the fact we have been operating successfully for so long on the edge of Western Port, an important Ramsar designated wetland for migratory birds.”
At the APPEA conference in Perth, ExxonMobil Environment and Regulatory Adviser Melanie Bok presented a peer-reviewed paper on the practices of managing and monitoring wastewater discharges in a sensitive environment and the outcomes of a long-term study measuring impacts of wastewater discharges from the plant.
Her paper, Five Years On: Monitoring of Long Island Point’s Western Port Wastewater Discharge, was co-authored by marine environmental scientists Scott Chidgey and Peter Crockett.
The paper demonstrates that the plant’s treated wastewater discharge has had no adverse impact on key environmental indicators in Western Port over a long-term study period.
“A major upgrade to the LIP water treatment facility in 2010 included a risk-based marine ecosystem program to monitor key environmental indicators including water quality, jetty pile invertebrate communities and seagrass condition,” said Melanie.
“The program’s longer-term monitoring record has allowed us to assess any potential chronic effects on invertebrates and seagrass by comparing temporal changes at monitoring sites over the period from pre-operations of the facility in 2010 until today. It also allows us to measure spatial changes between near-field to far-field sites, kilometres from the discharge point.”
Melanie said her study showed that industrial discharges could co-exist in sensitive environments, provided that discharges were properly managed and the outfall was designed to minimise its impact on the ecosystem.
She said the dedication and vigilance of the LIP team was also essential to protecting the environment.
“The careful management of wastewater input flows and quality within the site boundary before discharge, including maintaining operator responsiveness and coordination between laboratory and operations personnel are fundamental to maintaining the quality of our discharge stream,” she said.
The monitoring program will continue in future years to ensure wastewater discharges are managed effectively so as to protect the world-class marine environmental values of Western Port.
Five Years On: Monitoring of Long Island Point’s Western Port Wastewater Discharge was published in The APPEA Journal 2017.