The Petroleum Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 passed through Victorian State Parliament on Monday, setting the scene for a resumption of onshore gas exploration in the state.
The Victorian Government said that the south-west of Victoria and Gippsland are the main regions set to benefit, where geoscience studies have located potentially significant onshore conventional gas resources.
Industry can expect to begin on-the-ground exploration and development activity again from 1 July 2021, once the best practice regulatory framework is in place. All new gas will be prioritised for local use.
A Bill to enshrine the historic ban on fracking and coal seam gas exploration in the Victorian Constitution is also before the Parliament.
The onshore conventional gas restart follows three years of detailed investigations by the Victorian Gas Program. It found an onshore conventional gas industry would not compromise Victoria’s environment or its agricultural sector.
The investigations were overseen by Victoria’s Lead Scientist, Dr Amanda Caples, who chaired an independent Stakeholder Advisory Panel made up of farmers, environmental groups, industry representatives and local councils.
“The work of the Victorian Gas Program gives us the confidence that an orderly restart of the industry can deliver benefits for all Victorians and create jobs, without compromising our clean and green farming reputation,” said Minister for Resources Jaclyn Symes.
Australia’s oil and gas industry congratulated the State Government in supporting the lifting of the onshore conventional gas moratorium from July 2021.
Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) Chief Executive Andrew McConville said the legislation passing was a step in the right direction to help ensure that Victoria has ongoing secure supplies of natural gas.
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AMEO) has forecast shortfalls in Victorian gas supply as soon as 2024 if more supply is not developed. Shortages could happen earlier if winter demand is high.
“Victoria is a state that relies heavily on gas. Around 80 per cent of Victorian homes are connected to natural gas, and an average household in Victoria uses nearly twice the amount of natural gas as a household in any other state in Australia,” Mr McConville said.
“Thousands of manufacturing jobs in the state also rely on a stable supply of gas. This legislation should give some comfort that Victoria’s manufacturing base, and the local jobs it generates, should continue to have a source of viable supplies of domestically produced gas for years to come.”
The State Government will now work closely with communities, industry and local government to prepare the supporting regulations.
Victorians will be able to have their say on these regulations through the Regulatory Impact Statement process, which includes community consultation.