Conservationists are seeking to halt the $16 billion Scarborough gas project due to its risk to the Great Barrier Reef. 

The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has lodged documents in the federal court saying Woodside’s Scarborough gas project is likely to affect the Great Barrier Reef’s world and natural heritage values by adding to mass coral bleaching.

Woodside is seeking final approval from the offshore energy regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema), to begin work on the $16 billion Scarborough to Pluto liquefied natural gas (LNG) project off Western Australia’s north-west coast.

Some have questioned how a gas project off the WA coast could impact a reef that lies offshore of Queensland. 

But scientists and the International Energy Agency say that the world cannot afford new large fossil fuel projects amid a worsening glocal climate. 

The project involves opening an untapped gas field 375km off WA’s Pilbara coast and connecting it via a pipeline to an expanded liquified natural gas processing plant near the town of Karratha.

Estimates suggest gas from the development will see 1.37 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide - more than three times Australia’s annual emissions - being released into the atmosphere over 25 years.

The ACF says emissions from Scarborough could increase the average global temperature by at least 0.000394℃, which would result in the death of millions of corals in future mass bleaching events.

The group also argues that this temperature rise would act cumulatively with greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere to contribute to further anthropogenic climate change.

Woodside says the Scarborough project has been “the subject of rigorous environmental assessments by a range of regulators”, and that it will “vigorously defend its position”.