Federal Government signs off on Rinehart company’s plans for 120 new southern Queensland gas wells

Article by Susanna Nelson, courtesy of Proactive Financial News

The Federal Government has given the green light for Senex Energy to build more than 120 new gas wells in southern Queensland, fuelling the company’s ambitious expansion plan.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek’s approval allows Senex, owned by Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart and South Korean steel maker Posco International, to proceed with a A$1 billion plan to expand its gas fields near Wandoan, 400 kilometres northwest of Brisbane.

Senex had paused the project in December 2022 due to the Federal Government’s intervention in the gas market.

Now, with all major approvals now secured, the company is set to proceed.

Capitalising on gas shortage

Senex CEO Ian Davies argued that timing was critical given current pressures on the east coast energy system, particularly in southern states.

This expansion is poised to produce enough electricity to power more than 2.7 million homes annually, accounting for more than 10% of the east coast’s annual domestic gas requirements.

The Australian Energy Market Operator’s recent warning of a gas shortage in southern states underscores the project’s significance.

Davies noted that the expansion would start delivering 60 petajoules of gas to the market by the end of 2025, which he said would create more than 900 jobs throughout the project’s lifetime.

A spokesperson for Minister Plibersek noted that the project would primarily support domestic gas supply for households and Australian manufacturing sectors, including glass, bricks, cement and food packaging.

The government is also keen to push its achievements in renewable energy, maintaining that there has been a 25% increase in renewable energy in the grid under the ALP, outpacing coal and gas projects seven to one.

Environmental caveats

The project comes with 75 conditions to mitigate environmental impacts, including prohibiting the discharge of coal seam gas-produced water to surface water and banning the clearing of koala foraging and breeding habitats.

Senex is also required to implement a comprehensive water monitoring and management plan to address issues such as subsidence.

Despite these measures, environmental groups have voiced concerns.

Lock the Gate, an environmental lobby group, warned that the project could exacerbate subsidence and groundwater depletion in the region.

The group is also concerned about the approval’s implications for Australia’s climate change action, arguing that continued fossil fuel expansion undermines efforts to transition the economy away from fossil fuels.

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