I was grateful to hitch a lift with Member for Mount Isa Robbie Katter on his charter flight to Tennant Creek last week for the formal sod-turning ceremony of Jemena’s $800 million Northern Gas Pipeline which will link Tennant Creek and Mount Isa.
The project is great for local jobs and industries that rely on gas as a fuel or feedstock and in a wider context it provides more energy security for Australia as the pipeline will link the rich Northern Territory gasfields with the east coast market.
That’s because from Mount Isa the gas will link up with an existing pipeline to Ballera in south-west Queensland which has links to Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney.
However what I was unaware of until last week was that Jemena has commenced investigative work to to expand the Northern Gas Pipeline direct to the Wallumbilla Gas Hub near Roma in Southern Queensland.
The reasoning is that would further integrate Territory gas into the east coast market with their modelling showing the pipeline could easily be expanded to transport 700 terrajoules of gas a day, a number that far exceeds current gas usage in New South Wales and Queensland.
That would mean NT gas would be more likely to go for the lucrative export market via Gladstone port however there are some Territorian political considerations to take into account.
The Northern Territory is believed to hold enough gas to power the nation for 200 years but it is only viable if the current ban on hydraulic fracking is lifted.
Actually it is a moratorium not a ban while an inquiry into the technique is underway.
The terms of reference of the inquiry is to assess the scientific evidence to determine its potential effects on groundwater, surface water, geology, ecosystems, human health, current and future land uses, emissions and ecotoxicology and also try to ensure the industry meets best practice in relation to fracking.
Listening to Chief Minister Michael Gunner at Tennant Creek last week it seemed clear to an outside observer he was keen to overcome the ban.
That is a matter for Territorians but it will have impact on this side of the border making Mount Isa a key gateway in the transport of Australian gas.