The federal government will assess the Isa Superbasin as a potential area for the safe extraction of gas, Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg has announced.
Mr Frydenberg said the basin extended 56,000 square kilometres along the northern part of the Queensland-Northern Territory border, and its “world class” petroleum source rocks, demonstrated shale gas flows and proximity to pipelines made it an excellent candidate to deliver new gas to east coast markets in the next decade.
“This initiative aims to not only boost supply to the eastern states, but also support strong regulation of unconventional gas projects,” Mr Frydenberg said in a statement he co-released with Minister for Northern Australia Senator Matt Canavan on Friday.
The ministers say independent scientific studies would assess the geology, water quantity and quality of surface and groundwater as well as protected environmental assets to determine the potential impacts and environmental safety of shale and tight gas developments.
“Governments, industry and local communities must all be assured that our decisions about resources are based on a sound scientific understanding of the region’s geology and environmental values,” Mr Frydenberg said.
Senator Canavan said it would help create Australian jobs and support investment in regional Australia.
“It is vital that we unlock our gas resources and bring more gas to market. By taking steps to unlock our gas reserves, we will help put downward pressure on gas prices,” Mr Canavan said.
“This investment will make use of the best science to map and access our gas supplies to keep Australian industry running.”
The $30.4 million Geological and Bioregional Assessments Program was announced in last year’s budget.
The studies will begin early this year and will be conducted by Geoscience Australia and the CSIRO, supported by the Bureau of Meteorology and managed by the Department of the Environment and Energy.