Gas plan 'sets fire' to net zero emissions

Energy Minister Angus Taylor says Australia's gas supplies have been secured over the next 20 years.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor says Australia's gas supplies have been secured over the next 20 years.

Australia's gas supplies have been secured over the next 20 years under a new plan announced by the federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor.

But critics say opening and subsidising new gas fields and infrastructure is a waste of taxpayer money and counter to the recent global climate pact to move away from fossil fuels.

The National Gas Infrastructure Plan and a Future Gas Infrastructure Investment Framework released on Friday aim to lock in supply for households and manufacturers for east coast gas out to 2040.

The Climate Council said the move "sets fire" to the the Glasgow COP26 agreement.

"Gas is - and will forever remain - dirty, expensive, inefficient and harmful to our health," Climate Council spokesman Simon Bradshaw said.

"The only thing that opening new basins will do is magnify the harm to Australian lives and livelihoods," Dr Bradshaw said.

Industry body Gas Energy Australia said the plan and framework were a "win-win" for improving national fuel security, the environment and the economy.

"Opening up new gas basins is just the start," GEA chief executive John Griffiths said.

"The ability to get more lower emission gas fuels into Australian homes, hospitals, shipping and off-grid power systems is critical to meeting the emissions reduction challenge."

The Australian Pipelines and Gas Association agreed gas was on the "decarbonisation pathway".

"Demand for natural gas is not forecast to decline until well into next decade at which time we expect renewable, zero carbon gases such as hydrogen and biogas will be replacing it," APGA chief executive Steve Davies said.

But Greenpeace Australia said the extraction, processing, and export of gas have been significant drivers of Australia's consistently high emissions.

"Investments in gas run an extremely high risk with proposed mega gas facilities becoming doomed cost-heavy stranded assets - sending billions and billions of investor and taxpayer dollars down the drain," Greenpeace Australia Pacific chief David Ritter said.

"By locking in huge investment losses through gas, the Morrison government has shown it's not only a climate wrecker, but also economically illiterate."

Mr Taylor, also minister for industry and emissions reduction, said the government was "serious about gas".

Gas plays an important role in supporting jobs, food production, manufacturing, industry, exports and energy supply, he said.

At least one new basin will need to be brought online before 2030 to meet projected east coast gas demand, according to the plan.

The announcement comes two weeks after Australia agreed to the Glasgow climate pact to move away from fossil fuels, and follows Woodside's decision on a $16 billion LNG plant in WA that chief executive Meg O'Neill says is very important to meet the world's energy needs in the decades ahead.

Critical basins to unlock out to 2030 under the plan include the Narrabri gas project in NSW, the Beetaloo sub-basin in the NT, and the Galilee basin and the North Bowen basin in Queensland.

Both Beetaloo and Narrabri are "climate bombs", Australian Conservation Foundation spokeswoman Suzanne Harter said.

"Any plan to expand the gas industry risks Australia's future by committing us to more extreme weather events, longer droughts and more black summers," she said.

The plan envisages new pipelines to transport gas supplies to east coast markets and more transport from north to south as northern supply expands and southern supply declines.

The federal government is calling on industry to identify critical projects that require taxpayer subsidies to accelerate delivery.

"This includes projects that enhance competition in the market and allows for the consideration of gas infrastructure that also supports hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and biomethane," the minister said.

Australian Associated Press