Managing director and chief executive officer Kevin Gallagher said the conditions of the approval were consistent with those already set by the New South Wales Independent Planning Commission.
“We accept the conditions from the Commonwealth, which are very much in line with our other operations across the country and welcome the approval that all relevant matters of national environmental significance have been adequately addressed,” Gallagher said.
“Santos is excited about the prospect of developing the Narrabri gas project, a 100 per cent domestic gas project that will deliver the lowest-cost source of gas for NSW customers.”
Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the announcement that the project had passed all environmental approvals meant that jobs and gas would soon start flowing.
“I am satisfied that the conditions, and the staged nature of work in the area, will safeguard the biodiversity of the Pilliga Forest,” Ley said.
“My approval has also been informed by advice from the Commonwealth Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) to ensure the ongoing protection of precious water resources.”
As part of the approval, conditions have been implemented to protect water resources, including: an early-warning system that includes ongoing bore-monitoring and modelling to identify any potential impacts on groundwater aquifers before they occur; binding protocols identifying corrective actions; and a robust chemical risk assessment framework.
Santos will also have to established a community benefit fund of up to $120 million to share the ongoing benefit of the project with the Narrabri community.
Gallagher said the approval process for the project had been comprehensive, transparent and inclusive, providing the community with confidence the project has been properly evaluated using the best available science to develop without harm to water resources or the environment.
The company has already started workover activities on existing wells under its current exploration tenures and is working to get various agreements in place that are required prior to the final investment decision (FID) for the next phase of the development.
In addition, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said the decision paves the way for Australia to make the most of its natural resources and provides a boost to the local manufacturing industry.
“This approval is good news for the local Narrabri community, which will benefit from the job opportunities the project will create,” Pitt said.
“Santos reports that up to 200 ongoing, skilled jobs will be generated during Narrabri’s operation, and around 1,300 jobs during the construction phase.”