On the topic of natural gas supply, Queensland continues to deliver for Australia’s populous south-eastern states.
NSW and Victoria are the biggest consumers of gas by far – hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs depend on natural gas, as do tens of thousands of small businesses and millions of consumers.
In fact, we are set to pass the 5 million mark for numbers of natural gas customers – including 70% of Australian homes – and the number is rising at a rate of about 100,000 a year.
So it was reassuring to hear this week from the Queensland Government that it is intent on opening up more acreage for natural gas exploration and potential development.
Natural gas has been a boon for the Queensland Government, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.
The coal-seam gas industry in the Surat Basin (south-west Queensland) has reinvigorated regional towns with enormous small business and employment benefits. More than 5,000 farmers enjoy a new source of income (from hosting natural gas wells), better access roads and fences and, for some, a source of previously unavailable water.
In Gladstone, the new liquefied natural gas (LNG) export industry employed 40,000 people during construction and provides ongoing direct and indirect employment for several thousand.
South of the border, the benefits are very real as well. As Bass Strait gas production has started to taper, NSW and Victoria have become increasingly dependent on Queensland gas to keep industry running and to supply cooking fuel, hot water and home heating to millions of customers.
An imminent gas-supply crunch has been averted, predominantly through the redirection of Queensland gas away from export LNG to domestic consumption in the southern states.
For the future, new supply is desperately needed – which is why the Queensland Government commitment this week, during the state election campaign, is so important.
As the Queensland responsible Minister, Anthony Lynham, said this week:
“Queensland’s $70 billion LNG industry is fuelling the east coast. Queensland’s annual exploration program also includes almost 18,000sq km of land for petroleum and gas exploration in the Surat, Bowen, Eromanga and Adavale Basins. Many of these petroleum and gas blocks are greenfield sites, and can be developed for export or domestic supply.
“Our gas policy sends a consistent message to the market and provides a practical means of producing more gas for the Australian market – because we are focused on jobs and business growth into the future.”
And that is a very welcome commitment from the national point of view, as well as that in Queensland.