CSIRO science dismissed by Woodside

By Tom Ravlic

March 25, 2022

Woodside Petroleum app
(Wirestock/Adobe)

A CSIRO-prepared report for petroleum player Woodside was released this week amid controversy about the company’s insistence its gas projects help reduce global emissions.

The episode has brought into question why scientific studies, particularly concerning climate change implications, are commissioned for big business at all if those reports are so summarily dismissed by those same companies who don’t like the facts being presented to them. 

The report, released by the company following a freedom of information request, said gas projects could help in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, but emission reduction would only be with carbon prices that mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions.

Report authors Jenny Hayward and Paul Graham stated in the “commercial-in-confidence” report dated November 2019 that the only way in which gas is a viable transition fuel is if there were a high-enough carbon price to make up for further emissions.

“Gas can assist [greenhouse gas] mitigation during the period when carbon prices or equivalent signals are strong enough to force high renewable electricity generation shares,” the report says.

“Until the carbon price reaches that level their impact on emissions reduction is either negative or neutral. After renewables have reached a high share, additional gas supply has nothing further to contribute to emissions reduction.”

Woodside had argued the report, which did not find sufficient evidence to back Woodside’s argument that boosting gas exports would reduce carbon emissions, was now out of date.

Investor group Climate Action 100 is pressing companies such as Woodside and Santos to provide evidence for their claims that gas exports help reduce carbon emissions.

The controversial report on gas and the role it might play on reducing carbon emissions is not the only time CSIRO has done work with or for Woodside.

CSIRO’s Robotics and Autonomous System Group in CSIRO Data61 worked on a project to automate vehicles — in this case a John Deere platform — so they could navigate their way around the company’s worksites.

That project, which was first publicised in August 2018, is a part of CSIRO’s autonomous ground vehicle research, is one of a series of projects that explore the use of driverless vehicles.


READ MORE:

Energy prices and shortages used to justify government’s gas bet

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Geoff Edwards
Geoff Edwards
3 months ago

Why on earth is CSIRO involved in a report that is commercial in confidence? There are any number of private consultancies who can produce a report that would satisify Woodside.

CSIRO’s involvement in GISERA, a partnership with industry, already carries a significant risk of compromising CSIRO’s scientific independence in its gas research. Unless I have missed something, this is worse.

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