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As we all know, Angus Taylor and his boss Promo, announced the NCCAB’s gas-led recovery and related funding last year. Since then we have heard very little mainly because the LNP do not want us to know too much when it comes to energy and climate change.

Taylor is interested in anything to do with gas whether it is offshore or onshore. In fact, he seems to have developed a definite affection for onshore gas and shale oil exploration and drilling.

The onshore search for gas primarily means hydraulic fracturing or, fracking as it is better known. A bit of fracking history which is very relevant today.

In 2016, the Northern Territory banned fracking. In 2018 an inquiry into fracking concluded the “risks were manageable”. As a result, Michael Gunner’s government removed the moratorium which paved the way to a resumption of exploration and test drilling.

It also raised industry hopes for pushing Australia, with 88 trillion cubic feet of identified unconventional gas reserves, like the United States before it towards energy self-sufficiency if blocks on fracking were lifted elsewhere in the country.

In the year fracking was banned, Jemena started construction of the 622km long North East Gas Interconnector between Tenant Creek and Mt Isa. This was completed in December 2018. Commissioning occurred in early 2019. The projected capacity for this pipeline is 90Tj/day – that’s 85.3 million cubit feet/day!

The Financial Review reported on 13th October 2020 that Empire Energy had struck large reserves of gas in Beetaloo basin from its Carpentaria-1 well. Three days later, Taylor met with Empire Energy and even witnessed the progress at that test well! He and NT minister Keith Pitt made a joint media release regarding the Beetaloo Basin which was part of the budgeted five key basins to be explored under the Morrison Government’s $28.3 million Strategic Basin Plan. (That plan does not seem to exist outside tha media release. That plan and its funding was NOT in the budget but in a media release from Morrison on 15th September. Proving again how fast and loose the government is with figures. The budget mentioned $52.9M for a gas-fired recovery – that’s all.)

The NT News a few days later reported that Empire’s CEO Alex Underwood “has had a steady stream of politicians, government departments and industry stakeholders getting a first-hand look at Empire Energy’s Carpentaria 1 well site, which has had early success on the eastern side of the Beetaloo sub-basin. “

On the 16th December 2020, the NT News reported that the Morrison government was “putting $50m on the table to speed up gas exploration and development in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo sub-basin 600km south of Darwin.”

So all of a sudden, out of $28.3M for five basins, the government puts up $50M for one basin alone! That’s most of the funding announced in the Budget for 20/21!

On 30th October 2020, Taylor declared in his member interests that he received “Return charter flight and hospitality in NT on Friday 16th October 2020 with Empire Energy.” So now one of the major players on the NT fracking scene is paying for the Energy minister’s expenses! This does not look good! Amazing how a bit of schmoozing can lead to some government funding a couple of months later!?!

There are some serious players in the NT who are keen to retain Taylor’s benevolence – Jemena, Santos, Beach Energy and others. Especially given recent exploration success, Jemena is now seeking partners in a $5billion expansion to the North East Interconnector Pipeline which will boost the capacity from a paltry 90TJ to 1000TJ/day! By the way, Jemena is largely owned by a Chinese power company! Taylor had better keep his hands in his pockets if Jemena ever come cap in hand!

We can only hope that throughout all the dealings so far regarding NT fracking, that our indigenous countrymen are not being shafted along the way. The Northern Land Council had better be negotiating hard.

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