Commonwealth tips another $173 million into Beetaloo Basin gas reserve, insists emissions targets on track
The Federal Government is accelerating plans to develop a major gas basin in the Northern Territory, investing a further $173 million dollars into the Beetaloo Basin shale gas reserve.
- The Government is aiming to unlock the Beetaloo Basin for gas production by 2025
- It has now announced more than $200 million in recent investment into the basin
- The investment comes despite concerns over the potential falling global demand for gas
The investment will fund road infrastructure in the region, 500km south-east of Darwin, and comes just weeks after the Government committed up to $50 million to drive exploration.
The Beetaloo Basin is one of five Australian gas fields the Commonwealth plans to open up, primarily to support exports and domestic manufacturing plants, under its “gas-led recovery” from coronavirus.
Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt today claimed the basin was “expected to be one of the best basins in the world for gas” and said the Government’s continued financial support was critical to Australia’s economic recovery.
He said developing the gas reserve could contribute up to 6,000 jobs in the Northern Territory.
“We want to see more jobs, a stronger economy, more opportunities, and we are here to ensure that we can bring the gas resources of the Beetaloo online earlier, faster, safer … providing jobs sooner than was expected,” he said.
“We need that economy to be ticking over, particularly in a post-COVID environment.”
But a government strategy for the basin released today — which brings forward the timeline for connecting Beetaloo gas into the energy market to 2025 — appears to acknowledge ongoing concerns about long-term gas demand.
The strategy says, “starting production [in the Beetaloo] by 2025 [or earlier] to meet the expected window of maximum gas demand” is among a list of “serious challenges that could prevent [the basin] realising its full potential”.
The push to develop the Beetaloo continues despite doubts over the long-term global demand for gas and concerns that new gas infrastructure could soon become stranded assets.
Emissions targets will be met: Acting PM
Environmentalists have also repeatedly raised concerns about what tapping into the basin could mean for Australia’s carbon emissions targets.
A Federal Government department last year warned emissions from the Beetaloo Basin could jeopardise Australia’s ability to meet its Paris climate targets, in internal government documents obtained by the ABC.
Announcing the funding today, Mr Pitt and Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack said the nation was firmly on track to meet those targets.
But they did not outline a plan to offset potential emissions from the basin, which one projection says could reach up to 117 million tonnes of greenhouse gas annually.
“We’ve always got a plan; we’ve got a minister, in fact, dedicated to ensuring, along with his other responsibilities, to making sure that we not only meet but beat those international obligations that we’ve set,” Mr McCormack said.
When asked what was in the Government’s emissions offset plan, Mr McCormack said: “Of course there’s always offsets; we ensure that we are going to meet and beat our international requirements as far as reducing emissions.”
Mr Pitt added: “I have a strategic basin plan to deliver the gas basin at the Beetaloo; that means jobs for the Territory, that means more for the economy.”
Accelerating development of the Beetaloo Basin was one priority in the Northern Territory Government’s plan for post-coronavirus economic recovery unveiled last month.
Northern Territory Renewables and Energy Minister Eva Lawler said it was up to gas companies to formalise with the Northern Territory Government how they would manage their emissions.
“Whoever is exploring or working in the Beetaloo Basin has to have an environment management plan as part of our new Environment Protection Act,” she said.
“It is up to those companies, whether it’s Origin, whether it’s Santos, whether it’s Pangaea — whoever is undertaking exploration or gets to the stage of production in the Beetaloo Basin — they have to be able to address emissions through their environment management plans.”
Ms Lawler said that the Northern Territory needed the “economic stimulus that comes with unlocking the Beetaloo Basin.”