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Santos LNG project receives conditional approval

A new Queensland gas industry is a step closer today with the State Government granting conditional approval to the $7.7 billion Santos/Petronas Gladstone Liquefied Natural Gas (GLNG) project.

Premier Anna Bligh said independent Coordinator-General (CG) Colin Jensen had completed a review of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and approved it with strict conditions.

If all the necessary approvals are granted and the company confirms its final investment decision later this year the project could be shipping supplies from 2014. This joint venture between Santos and Petronas would extract coal seam gas from the Bowen and Surat Basins from the Roma region to Emerald and pipe it 435 km to a plant on Curtis Island, near Gladstone, for liquefaction and shipping to global markets.

Initially 3-4 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) will be exported with the potential to increase capacity to 10 mtpa. Given Queensland could host the first coal seam gas (CSG) to liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in the world, the Coordinator-General has imposed strict conditions on this project to ensure its social and environmental impacts are reduced and sustainably managed.

For example the Coordinator-General will require Santos to contribute directly in substantial community infrastructure, such as accommodation and transport. Santos will still have to obtain many other key environmental, production licences and safety approvals required under various state laws and as conditioned by the CG before any construction can start.

This will involve reporting back to the CG to initially approve development plans. Santos must report progressively throughout the project life on its compliance with the many conditions stipulated to meet environmental standards and address community concerns.

The new industry has thrown up several challenges including the management of coal seam gas water as well as pipeline access across the World Heritage listed coastal wetlands and marine environments around The Narrows at Gladstone.

The State Government will not allow salt from coal seam gas water to leach into the environment. It has also set in place a condition that makes the proponent legally obligated to ‘make good’ and negative impacts on groundwater bores.

All liquefied natural gas proponents will also have to work together to optimise the pipeline route from Gladstone to Curtis Island to minimise environmental effects. Santos originally proposed the idea of building a bridge from Gladstone to Curtis Island. Instead, workers on Curtis Island will be ferried in at the beginning of their two-week rosters.

Initially 2,650 gas wells will be drilled to extract the gas from the underground coal seams. The area of impact for each well will be small, and it will be surrounded by a fence for the mutual protection of pumping equipment and any livestock.

During this stage 110 landowners will be impacted. Pipes to connect the wells and transmit the gas to Gladstone will be buried underground and located within infrastructure corridors where possible, with impact to agricultural activities minimised. The 190ha for the GLNG project on Curtis Island is located in the south west corner of the island.

There are three other major LNG projects being assessed by the CG:

• Queensland Curtis LNG Project (QGC, a British Gas Group Company)
• Australia Pacific LNG Project (ConocoPhillips/ Origin Energy)
• Shell Australia LNG (Shell CSG Australia Pty Ltd)

Strong demand for this LNG product has been indicated from overseas markets, particularly in Asia, with future sales in excess of $60 billion being arranged

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