Santos seeks Narrabri approval as project controversy returns

Australian energy company Santos has submitted a state development application and environmental statement for the Narrabri coal seam gas project in New South Wales amid continued opposition to its plans at the site.

According to Santos, the proposed project in the state’s north west could supply up to 50 per cent of NSW’s gas needs, as well as broader benefits to the region.

Santos plans to make the gas available to NSW and the east coast domestic market via a link into the existing Moomba to Sydney pipeline. The pipeline link, which is subject to a separate approval, would be constructed by APA Group.

The Narrabri project could create about 1300 jobs during the construction phase and around 200 ongoing jobs, many of which will be locally based, according to the Adelaide-based company.

Santos managing director Kevin Gallagher said the company had spent time producing a comprehensive environmental impact statement (EIS) so the local Narrabri community and stakeholders could be confident the environment and water would be protected as the project was developed.

“The EIS has concluded the project can proceed safely with minimal and manageable risk to the environment,” Gallagher said.

“The Narrabri gas project has the potential to play a significant role in the domestic energy space. Natural gas has a vital role to play in delivering energy security, whilst having the additional benefit of being 50 per cent cleaner than coal resulting in a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

“The development of new natural gas resources is crucial in assisting Australia’s move towards a clean energy future. In NSW alone, more than one million homes and 33,000 businesses rely on natural gas as a source of energy.”

Santos estimates that the project will generate around $1.2 billion in state royalties to help provide services like education, health and transport infrastructure.

Despite the project’s potential, it remains highly controversial, with Santos’ long-awaited application to the NSW Government receiving plenty of backlash since it was announced.

NSW Greens energy spokesman Jeremy Buckingham told Fairfax Media: “The news that Santos has lodged their EIS will reignite a massive battle in NSW over coal seam gas, which the farmers and community will win.”

In December, Santos also described the Narrabri project as a non-core asset that would form part of a new, standalone business.

Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) chief executive officer Malcolm Roberts said the industry now expected to see another round of activist fear campaigns against the project.

“Without prejudging the outcome of the regulatory process – which will be exhaustive – there can be no doubt Santos has produced a high-quality assessment that addresses all potential issues,” Roberts said.

“There can also be no doubt that all gas users on the east coast urgently need new supply to be brought into the market. The east coast faces a supply shortfall as early as 2019.  Unless new projects are developed quickly, customers will face higher prices and tighter supply.”

Without projects like Narrabri, Roberts added it would not only mean higher energy bills but also more pressure on manufacturers using gas to make their products.

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