Gas integral to energy future: Macfarlane

AUSTRALIA needs a broad range of low-emission energy technologies – including natural gas – to ensure reliable future energy supplies, economic growth and prosperity, according to Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane.
Gas integral to energy future: Macfarlane Gas integral to energy future: Macfarlane Gas integral to energy future: Macfarlane Gas integral to energy future: Macfarlane Gas integral to energy future: Macfarlane

Speaking at the 2007 AustralAsian Oil & Gas Conference in Perth today, Macfarlane said the petroleum industry was a major part of the Australian economy and gas-fired power would be a key element of Australia's current and future energy mix.

“Over the last few years, in particular, there has been strong growth in the industry and it is a major source of employment, education, training and research,” Macfarlane said.

“It could be argued that the oil and gas industry is more than important. It’s pivotal to Australia’s continued economic prosperity and growth.”

There was no easy, inexpensive solution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, he said. But as the fastest-growing and cleanest fossil fuel, natural gas would be an increasingly important part of the domestic energy mix and LNG would become an increasingly important export commodity for Australia.

“Its ready availability and clean-burning properties makes it the fuel of choice for many countries,” Macfarlane said.

The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association welcomed the Minister's acknowledgement of the significance of the oil and gas industry to the Australian economy.

APPEA chief executive Belinda Robinson said she was encouraged by Macfarlane’s recognition of natural gas' value in addressing climate change.

“A modern combined cycle gas-fired electricity plant has about half the greenhouse emissions of a new black coal-fired generator,” Ms Robinson said.

“Realising the growth potential of Australia’s upstream gas industry will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 180 million tonnes annually by 2017 from a business-as-usual scenario, equivalent to around 30% of Australia’s total 2007 forecast emissions,” she said.

Macfarlane also said Australia needed a “broad range” of low-emission energy technologies to ensure reliable future energy supplies, while at the same time cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“[But] it must be developed in conjunction with other energy sources.”

Macfarlane said energy policy required a “complete plan” involving research and commercialisation across a range of low-emission energy sources, including clean coal technology, carbon sequestration, renewables and nuclear power.

“A future competitor for the gas-fired energy sector in Australia should be nuclear power, which is the only currently available zero-emission technology able to provide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, base-load power,” Macfarlane said.

“Our Government is committed to exploring its possible future use.”

Robinson said she was also pleased with the emphasis that the Minister placed on Australia’s need for a broad range of low-emission energy technologies, but was eager to see how this would translate into actual policy.

“While this acknowledgment is welcome, Australians will be looking to see how this can be translated in action that establishes gas as a means of substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the short to medium term,” she said.

“This would include ensuring a level playing field for the financial treatment of domestic fuels and an internationally competitive depreciation regime for important gas projects.”