Scientists Warn on Climate as Australia Unlocks Giant Gas Region
Comment of the Day

May 03 2023

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Scientists Warn on Climate as Australia Unlocks Giant Gas Region

This article from Bloomberg may be of interest. Here is a section: 

Scientists warned about the potential climate impact of shale gas production in Australia’s Northern Territory as the region — which had previously banned fracking — confirmed it will allow developers to seek approvals for projects.

The territory aims to exploit a sub-basin estimated to hold about 100 times Australia’s existing natural gas production after implementing a series of recommendations made when it lifted curbs on hydraulic fracturing in 2018.

“Our highly prospective onshore gas resources will support our energy security during the transition to renewables — and will improve living standards for all Territorians,” the region’s Chief Minister Natasha Fyles said in a statement. 

Development of onshore gas projects in the region — twice the size of Texas and with a population of less than 250,000 — has been a hugely contentious issue in Australia for years, pitting climate campaigners against resources companies that argue new local production is required to meet domestic energy demand. 

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s national government, which took office last year, has legislated more stringent emissions reduction targets, though also backs the role of gas in the nation’s energy mix, vowing to protect consumers from supply shortfalls.

Industry estimates suggest that the flagship Beetaloo Sub-basin alone could hold about 500 trillion cubic feet of gas, according to the Northern Territory government — more than three times annual global consumption and a quarter more than all proved US shale gas reserves. It’s part of an even larger basin called McArthur. 

Eoin Treacy's view

Natural gas is a pollutant. There is no argument with that. However there is no point talking about emissions with blinkers on. The impact of natural gas emissions from combined cycle power plants is a fraction of what is being emitted by coal fired plants. The hard reality is if the developed world bends over backwards to achieve carbon neutrality, the growth in emissions from the developing world will mean it is all for nothing.
China’s construction of coal fired power stations rose by 29% last year and announced/permitted rose 42%. Surely the commonsense solution is to invest in natural gas production to reduce prices and encourage countries to substitute coal for gas.

Load shedding on power grids happens because variable supply from renewables can only be handled by the grid at a low scale. That’s a significant limiting factor in the build out of the required infrastructure. The sector is now at the point where growth is totally dependent on energy storage. Regardless of efficiency is an additional cost.
Fluence is one of the better capitalised battery companies, but it is likely to range until there is a fresh upswell of global liquidity to reignite speculative interest in cash flow negative growth companies. 

The harsh reality is the abundance of gas opportunities in the Northern Territory is a negative for the gas price. Santos continues to ease back from the 2022 high and is susceptible to additional weakness. Outstanding questions about the cost of reducing emissions in the production of gas and the global price are medium-term challenges.

That suggests a better time to bet on Australian gas exports will be when prices are closer to the bottom of the decade-long range. Those concerns did not stop Singapore’s GIC from acquiring Origin Energy.
Woodside Energy has failed to sustain a move above A$40 since 2011 and is pulling back from that level again at present.

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