Government pushes expansion of gas industry

Industry and Science minister Ian Mcfarlane has described
Australia as an “energy superpower”, heralding yesterday’s release of the Domestic
Gas Strategy paper.

Building on the recently released Energy
White Paper
, the government’s Domestic
Gas Strategy
identified onshore gas reserves as an important energy source for
domestic and export markets, and states it is in the national interest to
improve gas markets for better access and price discovery.

“Australia is an energy superpower and some of our most
significant opportunities for growth will come from our onshore gas assets,”
Macfarlane said.

“We must ensure that we develop our energy assets in an
environmentally and economically responsible way.”

MacFarlane gave his assurance that the strategy would see
decisions about the development of gas reserves are based on “a comprehensive
body of science and research that is detailed, easily accessible and answers
the questions communities are asking as they work with the gas industry.”

“Unconventional gas, including coal seam and shale gas, is
already a big part of Australia’s gas supply, accounting for around 40 per cent
of production in the eastern Australian gas market.

“It will become even more important over the next decade in
meeting domestic and international demand.”

Mcfarlane also said the government was listening and
responding to community concerns, and that they expected the gas industry to be
involved in proactive engagement with communities, as well as mitigate the
unwanted social and environmental impacts of unconventional gas.

The strategy outlines as a key action the cutting of “green
tape, including through the One-Stop Shop for environmental approvals”.

It also reinforces support for Geoscience Australia to
acquire, analyse and deliver precompetitive data in collaboration with the
states and Northern Territory to better understand coal seam, shale and tight
gas resources.

The report was welcomed by the Australian Petroleum
Production and Exploration Association (APPEA).

APPEA acting CEO Paul Fennelly said the commitment to
building on research and exploration data with the CSIRO and Geoscience Australia
was a positive step forward for the government.

“Industry will also continue to do more to inform
communities about the science and technology that is driving significant
investment in rural Australia and underpinning a world-class industry,” he
said.

“We are already seeing the results of greater community
interaction in Queensland where ongoing community consultation has led to a
significant understanding of resource operations.

“As the Productivity Commission recently found, scientific
evidence shows that the technical challenges and risks posed by gas development
can be managed through a well-designed regulatory regime.”

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