CSG miner Santos has admitted it will be ‘the back-end of the decade’ before it actions its controversial project in the Pilliga State Forest, despite an agreement it signed with the state government last February to fast-track it.
The company is desperately seeking partners to help it exploit the increasingly uncompetitive deposit as plummeting oil prices put pressure on unconventional mining of fossil fuels.
In February 2014, the NSW Government signed an MOU with Santos declaring the Narrabri gas project a ‘Strategic Energy Project’.
The MOU included a timeline in which Santos were due to lodge their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on 30 June 2014, and the final planning determination was to be made today (23 January 2015).
Santos have still not lodged their EIS and the final determination date has now passed.
In an explanation of the backdown, Santos’ vice-president eastern Australia, James Baulderstone, said the company had always sought to offload the bulk of its investment in the project but the changed economic circumstances were posing ‘challenges’ in finding interested parties.
‘We are in active conversations with a number of parties,’ Mr Baulderstone, told SMH yesterday, adding ‘there won’t be a project unless there are more investors coming in.’
‘The question is when, and how and where you go about it,’ he said.
But the Greens are already calling the admission a win for community opposition to the project, which has already caused devastation to parts of the Pilliga from a toxic wastewater spill in 2011.
‘The Greens, farmers and the community have won the campaign against coal seam gas,’ Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham crowed yesterday.
‘The community are informed and dead set against fracking, and the industry has either packed up and left NSW, or their projects are at standstill,’ he added.
‘When the coalition took office in March 2011, coal seam gas was set to roll out in the suburbs of Sydney and Sydney’s drinking water catchment, across the Hunter Valley, at Gloucester, throughout the Liverpool Plains and up to Moree, as well as in the northern rivers, Newcastle, mid-north coast and Southern Highlands.
‘After four years campaigning, the industry is now banned in urban areas, has been crushed by strident community opposition in the northern rivers, and even the giant Narrabri project has fallen over.
‘In the last four years, the community uprising against coal seam gas has become the biggest environmental and social movement seen in NSW for decades.
‘Santos’ Narrabri gas project appears dead. The MOU has expired, Santos have slashed their capital expenditure by hundreds of millions, and the project is on hold as they desperately try to sell down their stake in the project.
‘The issue of coal seam gas is sure to be a big factor for many voters at the coming election, and the Greens are very proud of our track record on this issue,’ Mr Buckingham said.