Power's pipedream returns

FORMER FMG boss and current Strike Energy board member Neville Power is again backing his west-east pipeline dream, suggesting it could be part of any (gas-fired) recovery for Australia post-COVID-19.
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COVID-19 taskforce boss revives the west-east pipe debate

Helen Clark

Editor

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Power heads up the Prime Minister's COVID-19 taskforce.
 
The east coast could be short of gas in a few years, though New South Wales has committed to commercialising 70 petajoules a year of gas (via Santos' Narrabri CSG project, LNG imports or both is unknown) and Victoria will lift its conventional onshore moratorium in June 2021.
 
Currently gas is plentiful and the average spot price across the eastern states the lowest it's been since 2016.
 
The ‘nation building' project that former WA premier Colin Barnett backed has been a favourite of Power's for some time.
 
It's been a frequent talking point of his since his iron ore days, much like FMG founder Andrew ‘Twiggy' Forrest, who backs it also but in the shorter term plans an LNG import terminal in New South Wales via his private Squadron Energy.
 
Squadron is a member of the Australian Industrial Energy consortium planning the Port Kembla terminal, which last month received approval from the state government to expand its capacity.
 
Power has now said there will be "huge employment opportunities" in building such a continent spanning gas pipe.  
 
"A west-east pipeline or even an east-west pipeline would be a great opportunity for Australia," he said to press today.
 
"If we can reset that gas price we will reset the bar for renewables and get more efficient, more productive and more competitive renewables and it means every house in Australia will have a lower long term energy price."
 
While still at FMG he backed a pipe over LNG imports, telling the miner's 2017 annual general meeting a pipeline would mean WA's gas deposits that have not been developed off the coast could be used in the domestic gas market - "a great outcome for Fortescue, a great outcome for the state, and … for Australia". 
 
A west-east pipeline was also considered a benefit for Hess Corporation's Equus fields, now owned by the private Western Gas which is working on its own smaller LNG solution, and for other smaller offshore fields too small or too distant to be developed for LNG.
 
More to the point it was a great outcome for the Pilbara if miners could more easily switch from expensive diesel to power sites to gas.
 
A pipe "allows communities all along the line to tap into that and derive benefit from it across Australia and suppliers to tap into that pipeline," Power said. 
 
"We have one of the largest resources of gas in the world in WA," Power said at a Committee for the Economic Development of Australia  earlier the same year.
 
 "Yet here we are having to import diesel through a very difficult supply chain. A very short pipeline can connect us to these gas fields."
 
Similarly Mineral Resources Chris Ellison has been hunting for his own gas supply for some time, forming subsidiary Energy Resources to pursue Perth Basin gas plays.
 
Power joined Strike Energy, the Perth Basin gas developer that owns half of the prolific West Erregulla field and is planning to supply the domestic market, last year. 
 
Strike's managing director Stuart Nicholls told Energy News earlier this year his company was also considering mine sites, though looking at Goldfields to the east of the state, not the far north.
 
An ACIL Allen report commissioned by the government in 2018 essentially concluded the pipeline that connected the west to South Australia's Moomba hub would be uneconomic and given the upfront cost of building it then the huge distances gas would travel could likely not remain cost competitive.
 
"To proceed, the project would need to secure sufficient long-term commitments on the part of both gas producers and gas buyers to de-risk the project and make it financeable," the report said.
 
"This alignment of sellers and buyers would need to be achieved in an environment of considerable market uncertainty."
 
Given the rumours surrounding AIE's struggle to secure enough firm commitments from gas buyers from its relatively flexible LNG terminal, this could represent a large hurdle for any pipeline development.
 
A separate report from BDO released in 2017 believed the pipeline, which was still under investigation by the Commonwealth under the-energy minister Josh Frydenberg, would "likely come to fruition" by this year.
 
Woodside Petroleum and the state's other LNG giants have never liked the idea, despite Woodside's keenness to get more of its gas into the Pilbara via own LNG trucking facility, as any connection to the east coast could see the state subject to the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism or forced to supply the eastern states, much as Queensland's CSG fields supply the southern states now.
 
Should large amounts of west coast gas head east, with the two sides of the continent achieving price parity it could also and could also shoot WA premier Mark McGowan's plans to lure east coast manufacturers west with promise of cheap domestic gas.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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