US energy giant Chevron on Thursday won Australian government approval for its multi-billion dollar Wheatstone liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, but with strict environmental conditions.
The nod clears one of the final hurdles before construction of the plant, which will consist of two processing units with a combined capacity of 8.9 million metric tons of LNG a year.
It is scheduled to start production in 2016.
Environment Minister Tony Burke said 70 conditions would apply to the project, off Western Australia's Pilbara region.
They were intended to help protect threatened and migratory species such as dugongs, marine turtles, sawfish, dolphins and whales, as well as the general marine environment.
"Chevron will be required to submit for my approval a range of plans and programmes detailing how the project impacts on protected matters will be minimised," Burke said.
"For example, dredging operations will be optimised to protect dugong, marine turtles and their habitat, and dredging can only take place outside the coral-spawning period."
Chevron must also develop a programme to manage discharge from both onshore and offshore infrastructure and accommodation facilities.
A final investment decision to proceed with the project is expected later this year.
Melody Meyer, president of Chevron Asia-Pacific, welcomed the decision, saying it would help "meet long-term demand growth for cleaner burning fuel in the Asia-Pacific region".
Already among among the world's biggest LNG exporters, Australia has given the green-light to a number of massive multibillion-dollar gas projects, hoping to tap into the burgeoning green energy market.
Wheatstone is a joint venture between Chevron (73.6 percent), Apache (13 percent), Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Company (7.0 percent) and Royal Dutch Shell (6.4 percent).