A parliamentary inquiry into the safety of floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) processing plants is being held in Western Australia.
The Economics and Industry Standing Committee is holding a series of hearings this month with representatives from key stakeholders in Australia's oil and gas industry. They include producers, industry bodies, employee unions, emergency services and regulators.
Committee members will be looking at the measures taken to ensure the safety of workers on FLNG facilities, particularly in relation to extreme weather events and emergency evacuation procedures.
They will also consider whether Western Australia is ready and able to respond to a safety or environmental incident involving FLNG and will examine the role and responsibilities of the state and federal governments in relation to FLNG emergency situations.
A submission last week by the Maritime Union of Australia said that the safety of FLNG vessels is untested because "there are no such facilities operating anywhere in the world." Their operation was not covered by existing international and national safety regulations, it claimed.
According to Australian Mining, the union also cited research by Jérúme Hocquet that raised safety risks related to the hazardous process fluids and harsh marine environment, as well as the limited space of a floating vessel compared to an onshore facility.
Hocquet's paper highlighted issues concerning the proximity of gas processing units to the living quarters and said that a floating facility would typically be one sixth of the size of an onshore plant of the same capacity.
Public hearings on the matter will continue for the next two weeks.