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    Oz Northern Territory Eyes More Gas


The government is aiming to make up for lost time and use gas to boost the economy.

by: William Powell

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Oz Northern Territory Eyes More Gas

Australia's Northern Territory is “uniquely positioned” to lead Australia’s post-pandemic economic recovery based partly on its gas resources, chief minister Michael Gunner said May 22. The region is home to two LNG export facilities, as well as the giant Beetaloo shale gas resource, where production has yet to start.

Gunner has established a Territory Economic Reconstruction Commission to investigate how to create jobs and attract investment, now that the territory is officially virus-free.

He said Australia was going through a “once-in-a-lifetime crisis” which could also be a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for the Territory. Post-Covid-19, Australia would have to become more self-reliant and the future for manufacturing was in the north.

“We look at our solar reserves and our gas reserves and we are uniquely positioned to solve Australia’s problems – we need to take advantage of that opportunity,” he said.

Gunner said the commission would investigate how to create jobs in the NT, attract investment and build on its strategic advantages — establishing it as “Australia’s comeback capital... We are a A$26 ($17)bn economy right now, I believe we can be a $40bn economy by 2030 with 35,000 new jobs."

But it will be at least six months until any of the Commissions’ recovery plans become a reality — with an interim report expected to be handed down in late-July and a final report in November.

Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro was not impressed: had the government done its job properly in the past, a commission would not be needed. “It is not credible three months out from the election for the Gunner government to say to Territorians: ‘we have a plan’. The fact is, they don’t. The need for this reconstruction commission really reflects the inability of the Gunner Labor government to to generate growth in our economy,” she said according to local media reports.

Upstream welcomes initiative

But upstream industry group Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (Appea) took a more positive line. It pointed out that gas from both offshore and onshore sources has provided over 90% of the Territory’s electricity supply for many years, and there is also the potential for new onshore projects, such as the Beetaloo Basin, to power further growth and contribute to the economic recovery.

Appea’s Northern Territory Director Keld Knudsen said successful exploration, appraisal and development of these resources could provide significant benefits of jobs, local business opportunities, new value-adding industries, infrastructure and community investment for decades to come. 

“Our members stand ready to invest hundreds of millions in exploring the NT’s natural gas reserves, and many times that in bringing anticipated projects to full production,” Knudsen said.

“We look forward to engaging with the commission and the Government on the recovery and creating new opportunities for the Territory.”

But Origin Energy and Falcon Oil & Gas' work on Beetaloo, where a significant gas resource was reported to the government in October 2016, was delayed for a long time by a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing as various committees studied the risks before declaring it safe. 

Local media reported that it will be at least six months until any of the commissions’ recovery plans become a reality, with an interim report expected to be handed down in late-July and a final report in November.