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Qld: Gas plant shows energy potential

By Angela Harper
06 May 2009 5:44 PM

ROMA, Qld, May 6 AAP - What oil is to the Middle East, coal seam gas could be to southwest Queensland as a $250 million project opened on Wednesday to tap the seemingly unlimited supplies of the clean, green fossil fuel.

Queensland Energy Minister Stephen Robertson, who officially opened the Taloona plant at Spring Gully, near Roma, said the Queensland stores of Cola Seam Gas (CSG) were virtually inexhaustible and were a boon to the entire nation.

"There's no reason why we shouldn't be talking up this industry and comparisons with Saudi Arabia or the Middle East in terms of their resources," he said.

"Our coal-seam resources are just so vast in Queensland."

Taloona, the newest CSG plant in the Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) stable of three that Origin Energy operates as part of a joint energy venture with US giant ConocoPhillips, can supply 25 per cent of Queensland's gas needs.

Although coal is a cheaper way to source energy, CSG is a cleaner energy source and as the focus shifted to greener fuels, the cost of CSG would drop, Mr Robertson said.

But he warned against putting all the state's energy eggs in one basket and that other sources such as zero-emission geothermal energy - where hot dry rocks are wet to make steam - should not be discounted.

"This (CSG) is an important component of our diversified clean energy future - but it's not the only game in town," Mr Robertson said.

Origin executive general manager of upstream oil and gas, Paul Zealand, said the company hopes to start an LNG plant at Gladstone by 2010, but would not expect exports to start until 2014 until government and environmental approvals were finalised.

The two things on the critical path are the issuing of production licences and the issuing of environmental approvals, he said.

Mr Zealand said the Taloona plant was unique in that it was the first not built on its own land, but leased from cattle farmer John Campbell.

Many farmers are letting out their properties to the big energy companies and find it is a three-way partnership between landholders, the companies and the government, according to Mr Campbell.

"The cattle graze happily, eating the grass on top of the ground, (while the) gas producer is getting gas from below the ground and the Queensland government is getting taxes from both of us," Mr Campbell said.

And while farmers lease out some of the land, negotiations take place with the traditional indigenous owners to protect their heritage in the mined areas.

The local indigenous people can trace their history back 7,000 years, Mr Robertson said.

The first phase of the Spring Gully development began in June 2005 and there are now 400km of gas and water pipelines and 160 field wells feeding the three processing plants.

LNG is a natural gas chilled to liquid form and transported by tanker to destinations without pipelines.

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