A massive pipeline project that will link the Hunter and Newcastle to the fertile gas fields in western NSW and Queensland is one step closer to being completed.
And while the companies behind the construction say it will create hundreds of jobs, kick-start industry and solve the state’s looming gas crisis – it all hinges on the approval of a gas project in Narrabri.
Queensland Hunter Gas Pipeline and Jemena have reached a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Jemena to build and operate the $500 million first stage of the pipeline which runs from Narrabri to Newcastle.
The pipeline has a development approval in NSW and is ready to be built. It will take approximately 12 months to construct.
The project’s managing director Garbis Simonian, who also operates Weston Aluminium, said the privately financed venture would kick-off as soon as the NSW Government approved the $3 billion dollar Santos Narrabri Gas Project.
“We’re optimistic there will be no showstoppers and [the Santos project] will be approved,” Mr Simonian said.
The proposed project is on public exhibition until May 22 and Mr Simonian called for people to make submissions in support of Santos.
“Gas prices have doubled, there’s a serious shortage leading to a gas and electricity crunch,” he said.
“Gas is critical for the state’s industry, but also for electricity in homes. So develop Narrabri, but bring it through Newcastle.”
Gas in the Hunter has previously garnered support from both sides of politics, including Federal Member for the Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon.
Mr Simonian said Santos was interested in using the proposed Western Slopes Pipeline, which would bypass Newcastle and go straight to Sydney.
He said Santos’ needed to send extra gas to its liquid natural gas operations, which focuses on exporting the product overseas.
“You can bet your bottom dollar that gas will go north to [Santos’] Liquid Natural Gas in Queensland,” he said.
“This is about making sure the gas doesn’t get hijacked.
“If it comes through our pipeline it’ll be for [Hunter] industry first, and what’s left will go to Sydney.”
Natural gas has had a troubled history in Australia over the past decade. A groundswell of community opposition against projects at Fullerton Cove and Gloucester chased the industry out of the region in recent years.
Much of the opposition centres on environmental concerns, and Santos’ Narrabri projects have previously come under fire for contamination breaches.
Mr Simonian said he understood the concerns, and personally opposed gas projects in prime agricultural land, but the state’s inaction on developing the industry was pushing it toward the blackouts that plagued South Australia over the last few months.
“You can’t allow [gas fields] in high value agricultural land, but it’s not our there,” he said.
“You can’t lock up the whole state.”