The New South Wales Independent Planning Commission (IPC) has approved Santos’ Narrabri gas project, which has the potential to improve Australia’s east coast gas security and boost the state economy.
In making its determination, the IPC has relied on materials including a whole-of-government assessment conducted by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
However, the IPC has granted a phased approval that is subject to stringent conditions that Santos must meet before the project can progress to the next phase of development.
The four phases include: phase one – appraisal; phase two – construction; phase three – production; phase four – rehabilitation.
Santos has accepted the conditions proposed by the IPC and will work with the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment as it considers its recommendation to the minister on the EPBC Act approval.
Managing director and chief executive officer Kevin Gallagher said the NSW Government and IPC process had been comprehensive and inclusive, providing the community with confidence the project had been properly evaluated and determined to be in the public interest and capable of development without harm to water resources and the environment.
“Santos is excited about the prospect of developing the Narrabri gas project, a 100 per cent domestic gas project that can provide the lowest cost source of gas for NSW customers,” Gallagher said.
“This major step forward is welcome, but we must now gain the approval of the Federal Minister for the Environment under the EPBC Act as well as other subsequent approval.”
Australian Resources & Energy Group AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said the Narrabri gas project would bring important jobs and much-needed economic benefits at a critical time during the COVID-19 recovery phase.
“Santos has undertaken a comprehensive approval process to ensure the project can be developed safely and sustainably, while working closely with Indigenous communities to ensure protection of cultural heritage and sharing of the project’s benefits,” Knott said.
“Not only does Santos have a strong track record in safe, sustainable and successful natural gas development, it also has a well-earned reputation for ensuring the communities in which they operate thrive as a result of jobs and community investment.”
Business NSW chief executive Nola Watson added that it was now vital that work started immediately to build the Narrabri project and provide a reliable and adorable supply of gas in the state by 2025.
“Gas is a complementary energy source to renewables. Securing our gas supply will help support reliable and affordable power as the energy market continues to evolve and develop emerging technologies like hydrogen,” Watson said.
“The Narrabri gas project must be the first of several gas supply initiatives to help our manufacturers not only survive the recession but thrive into the future.”
According to the IPC, the groundwater and agriculture impacts of the project were considered fit for the purpose of approval.
The commission has imposed conditions requiring further information to improve the groundwater impact modelling before the project proceeds to phase two, in order to reduce the level of uncertainty in respect to potential groundwater impacts.
In regards to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Santos will be required to consult with an expert advisory group in measuring, minimising and reporting these emissions.
The commission notes that the project satisfies that the biodiversity impacts and its been measured and assessed in line with the relevant guidelines.
In addition, the IPC considered the main waste streams from the project (drill cuttings, drilling fluids and 840,000 tonnes of crystallised salt) is satisfied waste from the project will be disposed of in accordance with the NSW Waste Hierarchy, with landfill disposal being the last resort.
However, the commission has also imposed further conditions to minimise the on-site storage of waste and to require arrangements for beneficial reuse or landfill disposal at an EPA-licensed facility to be in place prior to phase one. Aboriginal cultural heritage, bushfire risk economic impacts and social and health have all been satisfied by the Commission.