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Narrabri CSG assessment riddled with errors, says TAI

New analysis by the Australia Institute shows that the NSW Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment’s (DPIE) assessment of the Narrabri Gas Project, downplays environmental impacts and overstates economic benefits of gas development to the region, relying on modelling commissioned by the proponent of the project while ignoring research and experience from previously failed coal seam gas (CSG) experiments in Queensland.

Contrary to the Department’s assessment, which naively accepts many of Santos’ inaccurate claims about the project, the Australia Institute shows that the Narrabri Gas Project will do nothing to improve energy security and reliability, increase global emissions, and provide few benefits to the local community.

Key findings:

• Despite lifecycle emissions from the Narrabri Gas Project being equivalent to almost a full year of NSW’s emissions—equivalent to building four new Tomago aluminium smelters—the Department characterises the project’s emissions as “small” and incorrectly claims it is consistent Australia’s Paris commitments.

• Additional gas supply will not increase energy security or reliability, or bring down gas prices. The Department’s assessment ignores the obvious fact that Narrabri will simply displace lower-cost gas from the Cooper Basin, allowing that gas to be exported, and maintains the project will lower gas prices despite Santos and the Departments own Director saying it wouldn’t. 

• The Department claims the Narrabri Gas Project will support new gas power stations despite AEMO projections that gas capacity in the NEM will fall by 40%. Australia is headed toward a future with less gas not more, with gas already being replaced by cleaner, more cost-efficient electrical systems for most uses.

• The Department accepts Santos’s questionable modelling of economic benefits, and ignores the actual experience of communities in Queensland with coal seam gas (CSG), including:

• Detailed research from Queensland’s CSG regions showing local businesses reported a decline in all measures of local assets as a result of CSG development including financial capital, human capital, infrastructure, social cohesion and the environment.

• CSIRO research showing there was virtually no flow on jobs created in the retail, services or manufacturing sectors and 1.8 agriculture jobs lost for every new CSG job.

• CSIRO research showing only around 6 per cent of people in gas field areas in Queensland thought gas development had changed their region for the better.

• Santos’ own modelling shows the project would lead to a reduction in employment in farming, mining and manufacturing

“The Narrabri Gas Project will do nothing to improve energy security and reliability, will push up gas prices and provide few benefits to the local community,” said Mark Ogge, Principal Advisor at The Australia Institute.

“For the Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment to present emissions equivalent to almost an entire year of NSW emissions as “small” demonstrates a lack of understanding of the seriousness of global warming. This is extraordinary in the wake of the Black Summer bushfires.

“The Department has seemingly drunk the Santos Kool-Aid and their assessment is full of obvious mistakes. Rather than applying serious scrutiny to Santos’ submissions, they have simply accepted the company’s highly questionable claims.”

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