'Gas-fired recovery' gets $58.6m in budget

Energy Minister Angus Taylor says new gas supplies must be developed as mature sources deplete.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor says new gas supplies must be developed as mature sources deplete.

Gas pipelines, port terminals and new fields will get $58.6 million from taxpayers in next week's budget to help fuel economic recovery.

Energy Minister Angus Taylor also flagged on Friday more funding to fill the baseload power "gap" left by the impending closure of AGL's coal-fired Liddell power plant.

The funding includes $38.7 million for early works to help gas infrastructure projects and $3.5 million to design and implement future investment plans if the private sector does not.

The pre-budget announcement focuses on four main projects, including two gas storage projects at Golden Beach and Iona in Victoria.

The other two projects are the expansion of the South West Victorian pipeline and an import terminal project, which is likely to be the Port Kembla gas terminal.

"There is a role for government," Mr Taylor told Sky News on Friday.

"Gas investments have, and continue to, come from the private sector and that's what we want to see but accelerating the process of doing the feasibility studies, of getting those projects to financial close, making sure the infrastructure is going into place.

"This is a reasonably modest investment for very significant gains, $58.6 million, to close the supply gap we see emerging in the southern states."

He said affordable gas was good for baseload power, consumers and for manufacturing and the 900,000 Australians the sector employed.

"What we're not going to do is allow a gap to emerge as we saw with Hazelwood," he said.

"It will be filled. We've seen the Tallawarra project come in, we're working through those options and we'll have more to say on that in the near future."

Before the pandemic, Mr Taylor urged states to do more in order to boost gas supply.

The government appointed an energy and manufacturing industry-heavy advisory board to recommend ways to help the economy after the coronavirus pandemic.

That panel told the government to expand the gas industry.

Mr Taylor is also the minister for emissions reduction.

The interim gas plan does not mention climate change, decarbonising the economy or emissions reduction targets.

The US government has flagged that it will stop subsidising fossil fuel industries and is urging other countries to do the same.

As part of the pre-budget announcement, Mr Taylor has released the interim National Gas Infrastructure Plan, which was developed after four months of consultations.

The final version will be released later this year and will be the government's blueprint for the east coast gas market to 2040.

"Looking beyond the short-term, the Australian government recognises that ongoing resource depletion of major gas fields in the southern basins will continue to place pressure on the east coast gas market," the interim report says.

The government has already committed $28.3 million to develop five new basins for gas supply including Beetaloo in the NT and North Bowen and Galilee in Queensland.

Beetaloo alone has been given $224 million to help with exploration and new roads for access.

The capital costs of developing the Narrabri gas project in NSW are expected to be as much as $4.8 billion, including the ongoing drilling of new coal seam gas wells.

The project is in the midst of a legal battle with community groups who do not want it to go ahead for environmental reasons.

"We've got to open up these new basins, or emerging basins," Mr Taylor said.

"The Bowen Basin for instance in Queensland - enormous potential both for domestic use and for export."

Australian Associated Press