The Victorian Government has announced its decision to lift the moratorium on onshore conventional natural gas exploration and development in a new Bill to be introduced to Parliament.

The Bill allows for an orderly restart of the onshore conventional gas industry in Victoria. It will also introduce measures aimed at ensuring newly sourced gas within Victoria and state waters will be prioritised for domestic use.

In 2017, the Victorian Gas Program set about determining the potential for new onshore conventional gas discoveries and what would be the risks, benefits and impacts of allowing exploration and development.

The Victorian Gas Program has now delivered a large amount of work to answer these questions. The scientific studies have found there are likely to be onshore conventional gas resources in south-west Victoria and Gippsland.

The three-years of studies have concluded that an onshore conventional gas industry would have no significant impact on farming because of the low risks to the environment or groundwater.

Following the passage of the Bill in Parliament, the department will start working with industry and other stakeholders to amend the Petroleum Industry Regulations 2011. In line with the findings of the Victorian Gas Program, community engagement elements of onshore conventional gas projects will be strengthened.

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, welcomed the decision saying it was an important step forward for the Victorian economy.

“Victoria has potentially enormous shale and tight gas resources that could generate billions in revenue and create thousands of local jobs,” Mr Pitt said.

“With the challenge that the Australian and world economy is facing from the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian industry will be well placed to lead the economic bounce back that will come.”

Onshore conventional gas development could potentially start from 2023–24 if industry makes a gas discovery, considers it commercially feasible to develop and secures the necessary regulatory approvals.

The amount of additional gas potentially flowing from the mid-2020s and over the coming decades, would bring energy security and many benefits, but it is not likely to bring prices down. It is also not likely to boost consumption, meaning no additional emissions will be created once the gas is out of the ground.

APPEA Chief Executive, Mr McConville, said the lifting of the moratorium aligned with Victoria’s Renewable Energy Target and its position on reducing emissions.

“As a low emissions fuel, natural gas has an important role to play in helping Victoria reach its emissions reduction targets,” Mr McConville said.

Greenhouse gas emission modelling found that the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions, should all the gas be found and extracted, would represent 0.1 to 0.3 per cent of Victoria’s net 2017 greenhouse gas emissions.

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