Australian environmental group sues Santos over clean energy claims

The logo of Australian oil and gas producer Santos Ltd is pictured at their Sydney office February 15, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Reed/File Photo

MELBOURNE, Aug 26 (Reuters) - An Australian environmental group is suing the country's No.2 independent gas producer Santos Ltd (STO.AX), alleging the company's statements about gas being "clean" and having a clear pathway to net zero by 2040 were deceptive.

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court on Thursday, and says it is the first case in the world to challenge the validity of a company's net zero emissions target.

Companies around the world have set out ambitious targets to be carbon neutral within the next 20 to 30 years, under pressure from investors concerned about climate change.

Santos has said it aims to get to net zero by 2040 with the help of carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects - including plans to store carbon dioxide in depleted oil and gas fields - and with soil carbon projects such as tree planting.

Santos declined to comment on the matter before the court, but its spokesperson said the company stands by its statements.

CCS, which is mainly used today for enhanced oil recovery projects, is seen by green groups as untested and unnecessarily prolonging the life of the fossil fuel industry.

ACCR said its case is a world-first test case around the viability of CCS and the environmental impacts of blue hydrogen, or hydrogen produced using gas, with the carbon dioxide emitted in the process captured and stored.

"Santos has perfected the art of greenwashing, and shareholders continue to be misled by Santos' clean energy claims," ACCR's director of climate and environment, Dan Gocher, said in a statement.

ACCR is asking the court to declare that Santos has engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct, prohibit the company from doing so in the future, and require the company to correct statements about the environmental impact of its operations.

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Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Tom Hogue

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