Gas: It doesn't get much bigger


p2222-Santos-1By ERWIN CHLANDA
In terms of dollars it doesn’t get much bigger in the Northern Territory than onshore gas, creating the most excitement at the national exploration seminar closing in Alice Springs today.
Royalties for onshore resources go to the NT Government. Offshore royalties go to Canberra.
This is how Chief Minister Adam Giles put it recently: “It is estimated that the Territory has more than 200 trillion cubic feet of gas resources in six onshore basins – potentially enough gas to power Australia for more than 200 years and reserves almost 20 times the size of the Ichthys LNG Project.
“There is also more than 30 trillion cubic feet of gas offshore.”
He says the pipeline his government wants to have built, linking our fields with the national grid, “will help unlock those onshore and offshore gas assets”.
Yesterday a senior mines department official said these are industry estimates, not proven up by exploration. He was more comfortable saying that even if 10% of that becomes available, it’s a lot of gas.
Today new Mines Department CEO Ron Kelly again spoke to the Alice Springs News Online, stressing the both the advantages of having a secure supply, as well as having it on our doorstep.
However, he found it hard to put dollar figures on it.
NEWS: What will we, the man in the street, get out of it?
KELLY: The man in the street will benefit from a vibrant and sustainable oil and gas industry on a number of fronts. It’s an entirely new industry that will create jobs and opportunities. It will provide additional work for existing businesses, suppliers of goods and services, and potentially new businesses coming to town and setting up. We probably haven’t even identified them yet. On the wider front the NT Government will benefit from an oil and gas sector because it provides government revenue.
NEWS: How many jobs will be created?
KELLY: Time will tell.
p2222-Santos-2NEWS: What are the royalties?
KELLY: That will be negotiated as we go forward. Having our own income will be a great place to be. We can say to Canberra we don’t need your money, with all those strings attached.
Matt Doman, a spokesman for Santos, which has been operating in Central Australia for decades, says royalties for onshore gas are 10% of the wellhead price, currently $4 per 1000 cubic feet, less production expenses. [Mr Doman has taken on notice our request for current examples of production costs, so we can calculate royalty payments to the government.]
Gas at the wellhead is the product a company such as Santos is selling. Of course, it is trying to get the best price from its buyers, Mr Doman says.
He gives an example of the effort and expense gas exploration requires, including the spin-off to the local economy: “Overall we invested around $100 million and employed over 100 people in works associated with the drilling of four wells at Mereenie [some 250 kms west of Alice Springs] last year.
“Intract Indigenous Contractors, with an entirely Aboriginal workforce, was awarded the contract to complete all civil works at Mereenie as part of that work program.”
What the consumer pays pays for gas includes transport, the use of a pipeline, for example, bottling and so on. Clearly, the closer to the wellhead a user is, the cheaper will he get the gas.
Mr Kelly says lower power bills and greater security of supply are just some of the likely benefits for Territorians. Attracting industries is another.
NEWS: Can the government set the prices of what – after all – is our gas, achieving extra benefits for the Territory?
KELLY: The market sets the prices. If the supply is close to where you are setting up your industry, then the transport costs will clearly be less. There are opportunities from cheaper energy and better energy security. I don’t have  crystal ball [to know which companies may be setting up in the NT].
NEWS: Will the government say to the gas companies, we’ll let let you produce the gas, but we want you to sell it in the NT at a substantial discount?
KELLY: That’s a question for the government, not for me as the CEO of the department.
NEWS: Is it something the government could decide?
KELLY: I don’t want to speculate about what cabinet may or may not do.
IMAGES from the Santos website.


  1. The question I ask is, how much dollars and cents the people will receive? Most of the hundred jobs will be interstate people and for a few months.
    What money will we receive? Don’t forget the cost of the pipeline.
    Countries like America and Russia have more gas and oil than they know what to do with.
    Russia has just sold China 400 billion dollars worth of gas and it looks like Japan will buy from Russia.
    I hope this does not end like the Ranger mine, being closed. We cannot live on pipe dreams.

  2. Four of the first five articles currently posted in the Alice Springs News Online talk about our gas. Three of them deal specifically with fracking.
    In today’s MSM I read that Australia is being urged to close her coal-fired power stations, or at least those that burn very dirty coal.
    But without coal (dirty or otherwise), gas from fracking or nuclear, what will we use to supply our demand for ever more energy?
    If there is an answer, a viable as opposed to a wishful thinking answer, then it needs to get out there and get itself accepted. Because otherwise, that pipeline carrying fracked gas looks more and more like the coming thing.

  3. While the fracking risks are obvious the likelihood that they will eventuate in the NT is difficult to predict.
    Whatever the potential for damage, we will know only when it happens- I for one would prefer we did not take that risk.
    Pumping CO2 into the atmosphere will result in increasing average temperatures and more catastrophic weather events. We have over 100 years of records clearly demonstrating this, supported by models that confidently predict what might happen in the future if we maintain current levels of CO2 emissions.
    Producing and burning more gas will contribute to a business as usual approach.
    So while fractured rocks and chemicals might damage our environment, CO2 is damaging it now.
    The wind blows and the sun shines and we now know how to capture and use the energy contained in these natural forces.
    The cost is now accepted as being equivalent or less than carbon sources so leave the gas in the ground and get on with utilising renewable sources as an absolute priority.


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