Climate Council: Just Say No To Narrabri Gas Project

Coal seam gas wells

Image: Lock The Gate

The Climate Council hasn’t minced words in its submission to the NSW Independent Planning Commission (IPC) on the Narrabri Gas Project.

Santos seeks to construct hundreds of coal seam gas wells within the Narrabri Shire area in the North West Slopes region of New South Wales. The 850 new CSG wells will be dotted across 95,000 hectares in the north eastern part of Pilliga State Forest and adjoining grazing land, and will involve clearing close to 1,000 hectares in a patchwork manner for the wells and connecting lines.

Santos says the project

 “could supply NSW homes, small businesses, major industries and electricity generators with up to half the state’s natural gas needs and bring substantial economic benefits to Narrabri and the region.”

In June, NSW’s Department of Planning Industry and Environment said it considered the project to be in the public interest and is approvable subject to strict conditions.

The Climate Council says the project is not needed; particularly given the havoc it will wreak.

“In 2020, it no longer makes any sense to approve new fossil fuel projects,” says the Climate Council. “Wind and solar are the cheapest form of new electricity generation in Australia. We must accelerate the transition to renewables and storage technologies and new fossil fuel projects will only delay climate responses.”

No Demonstrable Benefit – Plenty Of Risk

Among the concerns highlighted in its submission is the rapid and permanent greenhouse gas emissions reduction required to achieve globally agreed goals mean the project should be rejected on that basis alone.

The Climate Council states data provided by Santos relating to emissions from the Narrabri Gas Project is based on science more than a decade old and on conditions on a different continent. It also says its emissions estimates deviate wildly from other assessments, but as assumptions underpinning Santos’s  assessment haven’t been disclosed, it makes it impossible to point out the errors in calculations.

The Council has also seized on a recently published report from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) indicating Australia can rapidly transition to renewables with no new gas-fired generation.

As for the jobs the Santos project promises, the Climate Council released a report in July stating 15,000 jobs could be created  through installing utility-scale renewable energy facilities, transmission infrastructure and utility-scale batteries across Australia.

Looking more locally, back in 2017 researchers at University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for Sustainable Futures (ISF) investigated how many jobs could be created in the region if a focus was put on renewables. It found in one scenario, wind and solar energy projects would create triple the long-term jobs in operation and maintenance compared to the Narrabri Gas Project with one third of the planned gas field investment.

It appears the IPC is going to have a quite a task ahead in reviewing submissions. The Narrabri Gas Project has been one of the most controversial in the history of NSW planning law according to Lock The Gate, which says the project’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) attracted 22,721 submissions, 98% of which were objections.

Lock The Gate says if the Narrabri Gas Project was given the green light, it would be a major threat to groundwater, native fauna and flora, and have many other negative impacts. In relation to emissions, it notes an estimate the project will generate 127.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or 5 million tonnes a year.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.


  1. Geoff Miell says

    Recently published at the Independent Planning Commission NSW (IPCN) Narrabri CSG Project webpage are Expert Advice documents prepared for the Environmental Defenders Office NSW (EDO-NSW) on behalf of the North West Alliance, including from:

    * Professor Penny Sackett, former Chief Scientist for Australia (2008-2011);

    * Tim Forcey, energy systems researcher with the University of Melbourne;

    Professor Sackett’s Expert Advice document includes Table 5 outlining the effect of the proposed Narrabri CSG Project on meeting:
    – Australia’s 2030 emissions target – it’s 64% – 68% (in wrong direction);
    – NSW’s 2030 emissions target – it’s 26% – 44% (in wrong direction).

    Tim Forcey’s Expert Advice document focuses on the topics that include:
    – the Narrabri Gas Project’s release of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) extracted from the coal seams;
    – false claims of gas shortages;
    – falling demand for gas in eastern Australia;
    – economic (i.e. cheaper) alternatives to burning fossil gas.

    The evidence I see indicates the proposed Narrabri CSG project increases the risk of civilisation collapse within this century.

  2. Martyn Grosser says

    Government legally sold out the people assets so is not legal as the government is on the stock exchange. So to allow them to do this would be against our constitution santosers bugger off

  3. Des Scahill says

    Thanks for the info Geoff,

    On current indications, it seems to me that the cascade of flow-on consequences that arise from climate change are arriving far sooner than most expect.

    I think too, that even among those politicians who do -somewhat grudgingly – concede that ‘climate change exists’ there is a lack of understanding as to just how mammoth such ‘flow-on’ effects can be in their size and impact.

    • Geoff Miell says

      Des Scahill,
      You state:
      “…even among those politicians who do -somewhat grudgingly – concede that ‘climate change exists’ there is a lack of understanding as to just how mammoth such ‘flow-on’ effects can be in their size and impact.”

      I think some climate scientists are very clear (if you know where to look) about what the likely consequences are if humanity doesn’t drastically reduce human-induced GHG emissions, particularly within this decade.

      Professor Sackett states transcript page 48, lines 9-10):

      “Now, what will happen in future? Well, that predominantly depends on what we, as humans, do, particularly between now and 2030. But we do know that if the Paris target of 2 degrees of warming is reached, coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef, are very likely to be eliminated entirely and, regardless, we are going to see an increase in high fire danger weather. The Narrabri Gas Project region, in particular, is said with very high confidence, or high confidence for each of these things, to be experiencing temperatures that will continue to increase in all seasons, winter rainfall decreasing, increased intensity of extreme rainfall events, and harsher fire weather danger.”

      Climatologist Will Steffen was more explicit in his Supplementary Expert Report (pages 2-3), recently published on the IPCN Vickery Mine Extension Project webpage, outlining a list of a number of projected impacts on Australia of a 3°C temperature rise (both for the environment and more generally) concluding with:

      “The list could go on, but the point is that the high-probability impacts are severe, presenting very large challenges to our health, well-being, economy, livelihoods, and natural ecosystems. Australia at a 3°C temperature rise would be largely unrecognizable compared to 20th century Australia, and would be one of the toughest continents on the planet for humans to thrive upon.”

      I guess many politicians (and most people in general) just don’t want to know – it’s all too difficult – which likely leads to condemning humanity to an increasingly more hostile planet. The evidence I see indicates something has to drastically change soon, or the path towards an increasingly more uninhabitable Earth will soon be ‘locked-in’ for humanity.

      The message that people like Michael Shellenberger are offering – downplaying the risks associated with climate change – is far more appealing, but in reality keeps us heading on a path to civilisation collapse.

  4. Jeff (From Canberra!) says

    Why wouldn’t this “new gas” be subject to the current market debarcle and cost us just as much as our plentiful gas does now?
    I can see no reason that this gas would be any cheaper or available than our gas is now.

    There’s a lot going on out there under cover of this “Covert 19” virus.
    Keep your eyes open…

    • Geoff Miell says

      Jeff (From Canberra!),
      You state:
      “I can see no reason that this gas would be any cheaper or available than our gas is now.”

      The evidence indicates you would be correct.

      The transcript for Day 4 (Jul 23) public hearing for IPCN Narrabri CSG Project with Dr Alistair Davey from Pegasus Economics (page 61) speaking highlights:

      “And, on 1 July, you could – according to the PLACS LNG report, you could order LNG for arrival in the month of August on 1 July and get it delivered to Australia for just under $3 per gigajoule, and to regasify it would cost you roughly in the order of another $1.20. So you’re looking at a price, a delivery price to Port Kembla for gas that is usable, of about less than $4.20 a gigajoule. This compares to the most recent quoted marginal cost price for the Narrabri Gas Project of gas delivered via pipeline that hasn’t yet been approved, delivered to the Sydney to Moomba gas pipeline, in the order of $6.40 per gigajoule and, in Santos’ own economic assessment of the Narrabri Gas Project, it quoted a price of $8.70 a gigajoule in 2016/17 constant prices.

      Translated in today’s price terms, that’s in excess of $9 a gigajoule, so it is not true, in my opinion, to say that the Narrabri Gas Project will always be in a position to deliver cheaper gas prices to New South Wales than LNG import terminals possibly could. Of course, one of the factors promoting the possibility of LNG import terminals on the east coast of Australia is the simple fact that gas prices produced from domestic sources on the east coast of Australia are far too high. A good – the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have raised concerns about the level of gas prices; in particular, the level of netback prices offered by the Queensland LNG projects, which essentially represents the Asian spot price netting back the cost of transport and LNG processing, and observing that the prices charged by these LNG export projects haven’t – have somewhat diverged and haven’t reflected more recent changes and fallen as much as the spot prices in the Asian region.”

      Later, Dr Davey says (Day 4 transcript page 62):

      “Look, I think there’s a very good possibility that the Narrabri Gas Project could end up, if it actually does proceed, as a stranded asset, particularly if spot prices in ….. Asia from which LNG export prices in Australia would inevitably be benchmarked to remain low.”

      Then there’re similar assessments also from Mark Ogge from The Australia Institute (pages 63-68) and Bruce Robertson from IEEFA (pages 69-73) to name a few more.

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