Revealed: NSW makes call on Narrabri gas project
The NSW government has recommended a historic multibillion-dollar coal seam gas project at Narrabri to secure the state's energy future.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal the state's Department of Planning has recommended the Santos Narrabri gas project, after a protracted three year consideration.
The department will announce on Friday it has officially referred the project to the Independent Planning Commission for final assessment.
An approval by the IPC - which could come within 12 weeks - would herald the most significant NSW gas development in decades and allow the state to rely on its own underground gas supplies for more than half of its requirements.
The stamp of approval from the state government is a huge boost for the project, with the IPC traditionally more likely to side with the Department of Planning in decision making - although it still has scope to diverge.
The project has been highly contentious, with 23,000 submissions received and the IPC set to conduct a public hearing in making its final recommendation.
Planning Minister Rob Stokes has requested the IPC reach a decision within 12 weeks.
Santos said as recently as last week it is "in a position to ramp up activity" shortly after approvals are granted.
It's understood drilling of appraisal wells would begin almost immediately, as well as quick employment and gas supply, although a supply pipe into the broader market will still be required.
It can be revealed the Department of Planning's own assessment found that the project was "critical for energy reliability and security".
It has found the project will create 1300 direct construction jobs and 500 direct and indirect ongoing jobs.
The department considered the project a $3.5 billion capital investment and found that it could cater for 50 per cent of the state's gas supply.
It is likely the recommendations will come with strict offset requirements for Santos in order to satisfy environmental concerns, however these will also be subject to change following community hearings.
It comes just a week after Labor backed a gas moratorium bill in NSW parliament which was defeated on votes, but saw leader Jodi McKay subject to intense criticism from the Australian Workers Union.
Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor has also strongly backed the project.
The Federal Government has struck a deal with NSW to add 70 petajoules of gas to the east coast gas market of 350PJ - with Narrabri capable of meeting that target.
"Would you rather the gas be here? Yep," Mr Taylor said last month when asked the best approach to add gas to the market.
"The best answer is Narrabri … it's local so you can strike long-term deals that are good for both sides - the supplier and manufacturers."
Originally published as Revealed: NSW makes call on Narrabri gas project