DOUBTS have been cast over Santos’s claim that all coal seam gas extracted from its planned Pilliga operations will be used to ease the state’s energy crisis.
EnergyAustralia, which holds a 20 per cent stake in the controversial $2 billion project, has refused to guarantee the gas will remain in NSW.
An urgent need to tap new energy supplies to combat a predicted shortage was a key reason for the NSW government’s recent decision to fast-track the project’s assessment.
Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner, when declaring the development a “strategic energy project”, said it could supply “up to 25 to 50 per cent” of the state’s gas needs.
Santos has consistently maintained it would not sell the gas to lucrative overseas or interstate markets, but rather was committed to building a pipeline heading south to feed state supplies.
However, its joint venture partner, EnergyAustralia, was less clear when quizzed at last month’s meeting of the Narrabri Community Consultative Committee.
“EnergyAustralia has a portfolio of gas contracts ... across the eastern Australian states of NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland,” a spokesman said in a written response several weeks after the meeting.
“Gas we purchase from Narrabri will be used to supply the needs of our customers and our power generation.”
When contacted about EnergyAustralia’s comments, a Santos spokesman reiterated the company’s stance that it would “make the gas available for the NSW market”.
But Pilliga grazier Tony Pickard, who posed the questions at the February meeting, said the response cast grave doubts over the validity of the assurances given.
“There has always been that suspicion that the gas will not entirely be fed to NSW and our dear friend from EnergyAustralia has just about reinforced that,” he said.
“Last Wednesday when we had the (Narrabri CCC) meeting, Santos didn’t come back and repudiate him, which I would have thought they would do if it was wrong.”