LANDHOLDERS have expressed fears energy giant Santos is hell-bent on laying a massive pipeline through some of the Liverpool Plains’ most productive farmland to transport coal seam gas to the Sydney market.
The company is on track to present an environmental impact statement for its planned $2 billion Narrabri Gas Project to the NSW government before June 30, but the document will not contain details about the pipeline.
The “preferred route” for the crucial piece of infrastructure is not expected to be revealed until Santos lodges a separate submission – titled the “Pipeline Preliminary Environment Assessment” – at a future, undisclosed date.
A spokesperson for the company told The Leader this week that “a final route has not yet been determined”, but it will run south from its Pilliga operation and link in to the existing Moomba to Sydney pipeline.
The uncertainty surrounding such an integral piece of Santos’ plans to cure the state’s pending gas crisis by providing up to 200 terajoules a day – half NSW’s natural gas needs – from the project has many landholders worried.
Members of the Mullaley Gas and Pipeline Accord (MGPA) – a community group formed back when Eastern Star Gas was proposing a 272km pipeline from Narrabri to Wellington – continue to follow any development on the pipeline closely.
David Quince, a Tambar Springs farmer and Gunnedah councillor, has no doubt the company’s preference is for the pipeline to take the most direct route through black soil country.
He said his greatest fear was that it would start near Jacks Creek Forest in the Pilliga and pass through the so-called “biogenic fairway” east of Gunnedah – an area with both huge coal seam gas potential and productive soils – and down to Georges Island on the Liverpool Plains.
Georges Island was the site of a high-profile blockade in 2011 when farmers foiled Santos’ plans to push ahead with a pilot program of coal seam gas production.
Mr Quince said that adding credence to his theory is that Santos stated at an investor seminar in 2013 that the pipeline would be 180km long.
“If you drive from Jacks Creek Forest down to Georges Island it is about 197km, but in a straight line it is close enough to 180km,” he said.
“What it would enable is Santos to open up that biogenic fairway – which has some of the deepest, most valuable and productive black soils in the country – to exploration.”
A Santos spokesperson said: “Once a preferred route has been determined, we will consult with the local
community and all relevant stakeholders who may have an interest or who may be impacted.”