Why the time is right for more regional natural gas supply projects

Coal seam gas development vital for communities and domestic supply

OPINION
Agribusiness
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Developing Australia's natural resources, onshore and offshore, has never been more important

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Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association's Andrew McConville.

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association's Andrew McConville.

OPINION

The supply of reliable and affordable energy, including natural gas, is essential for Australia, especially during the current COVID-19 crisis.

The Australian oil and gas industry takes its responsibility very seriously: to continue to power Australian homes, businesses, hospitals, schools and other industries, including those essential to keeping rural and regional communities working.

We are fully committed to working with the state and federal governments - and local communities - to ensure security of supply and maintain the oil and gas industry as a key engine of economic growth and stability.

Developing Australia's natural resources - both onshore and offshore - has never been more important.

It requires continued commitment and investment at a time when Australia needs jobs, manufacturing and to keep the lights on.

Now is definitely not the time to put the brakes on an investment that will deliver widespread benefits for the region and state in terms of jobs, regional development including support for farmers, energy supply for manufacturing and taxation revenue for governments.

Progressing new developments, including the Narrabri Gas Project in NSW, are vital, especially when other parts of the economy are severely constrained by the impacts of COVID-19.

All of these can be managed in an environmentally responsible and safe manner.

The economic case for the Narrabri coal seam gas project is irrefutable.

It could supply up to half of NSW's gas needs as well as increase domestic supply, provide well-paid and secure local jobs, royalties, and a regional community benefit fund to be established when the project reaches production phase.

That in itself could deliver up to $120 million to the local community.

Working with farmers and local councils, the industry has built and maintained positive relationships across the wide spectrum of stakeholders that can benefit from or be impacted by, our operations. - Andrew McConville APPEA

The environmental impact statement for the Narrabri Gas Project is still being assessed by both state and federal governments, with extensive community consultation throughout the assessment process.

Already, the environmental issues associated with onshore gas have been exhaustively analysed by the NSW chief scientist and numerous expert independent inquiries and the evidence is clear - good regulation and good industry practice mean that onshore gas can be developed safely.

More than 40 per cent of gas used in NSW supports manufacturers making essential items including glass, bricks, paper, cement, steel, alumina, fertilisers, plastics and chemicals.

In most cases, there is no substitute for gas in these manufacturing processes.

If Queensland's successful onshore coal seam gas (CSG) industry is any gauge, these projects offer major benefits to the region's landholders in terms of infrastructure improvement, water and tax-free payments.

Working with farmers and local councils, the industry has built and maintained positive relationships across the wide spectrum of stakeholders that can benefit from or be impacted by, our operations.

We understand the importance of building long term relationships in the communities where we operate and while we might not always get it right, we are committed to making sure we try. Our focus is on sharing benefits and addressing concerns wherever and whenever they arise.

There are also win-win opportunities from onshore development for local landholders.

As someone who grew up in regional Australia and spent 25 years working in agriculture here, and in Asia and Europe, before joining APPEA, I have seen first hand the benefits of coexistence of gas and agriculture.

Today's agribusinesses can and do work side-by-side with the oil and gas sector and, investments by the oil and gas sector have helped improve local services, infrastructure, incomes on farm and growth in local communities.

And around the world, energy security closely follows food security.

Here in Australia, landholders welcome both water and revenue from natural gas projects, which helps to provide a hedge against weather and commodity cycles.

While through taxation revenue and direct investment, the industry has underpinned significant development in regional infrastructure, from housing and hospitals to airports and roads.

Australia's economic recovery has delivered over $250 billion in taxation revenue since 1960, invested over $350 billion in natural gas production, transport, liquefaction and export facilities in the past decade, and export revenue of more than $50 billion in 2018-19.

This export revenue feeds directly back onto the Australian economy, helping support over 80,000 jobs, and billions of dollars of work for Australian companies, large and small.

But the job is not done and continuing to attract investment in our economic recovery is vital.

Increasing supply requires political support, regulatory certainty and the maintenance of business confidence.

It is now, more than ever, that a growth mindset will help create employment, support communities and provide 'energy for a better Australia'.

  • Andrew McConville is chief executive of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.
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The story Why the time is right for more regional natural gas supply projects first appeared on Farm Online.

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