April 4th 2020

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The world has changed: Now for the new order

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Move to curtail underage online porn epidemic

CANBERRA OBSERVED ScoMo's delicate balancing act in extraordinary times

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Time and timing are crucial to Cardinal Pell's appeal by Peter Westmore

NEW ZEALAND Political divisions polarise across the Ditch

NEW ZEALAND Victorian Road Map smooths way of NZ anti-life clique to abortion 'reform'

FREE SPEECH Intolerance brigade at UQ attacks professor of Law

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Victoria lifts moratorium of gas exploration

CHINESE HISTORY The Soong Dynasty: Three sisters who rules China

LAW AND SOCIETY Guilt by accusation: The kangaroos are roaming freely through Australia's legal system

GENDER POLITICS Dr Quentin Van Meter's Australian talk is opening eyes in the U.S.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Australia is not safe in the borderless globalised world

SHOPPING AND SOCIETY The Ubermensch in the aisles

MUSIC We seem to have lost the point of counterpoint

CINEMA The Current War: Industrial miracle workers

BOOK REVIEW A dark trade that continues unabated worldwide

EBOOK READ THIS Both sides to this old story



NATIONAL AFFAIRS Use detention centres to help deal with covid19 epidemic

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Justice at last: Cardinal Pell set free

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Victoria lifts moratorium of gas exploration

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, April 4, 2020

The Labor Government in Victoria has announced that it will end a six-year moratorium on onshore gas exploration, in response to rising domestic gas prices.

The moratorium was introduced by the last Liberal government, in response to pressure from radical environmentalists who wanted to end the use of fossil fuels in Victoria.

As no domestic gas was being produced onshore in Victoria at the time, it probably seemed to be a token gesture.

But the closure of the Hazelwood Power Station, which put more pressure on other sources of electricity, including gas, together with declining production of gas from existing Bass Strait oil and gas fields, which are approaching the end of their working lives, has exacerbated Victoria’s energy shortfall and led to the price of both gas and electricity doubling in recent years.

Manufacturers and consumers have been vocal in demanding an end to the moratorium, but extreme environmentalists remain totally opposed to the use of gas, and condemned the Government’s move. Despite statements to the contrary, lifting the moratorium will have little or no effect in the short term.



The lead-time between drilling exploration wells, to be permitted from July 2021, and commissioning of new sources of gas is at least five years, and could well be twice as long.

The process involved in the discovery of new oil and gas fields involves complex seismic evaluation to determine where possible sources of oil and gas may be found, followed by exploratory drilling. Most exploratory gas wells are “dry”, meaning that no gas is found.

Even if a discovery is made, follow-up drilling is then required to determine whether there is sufficient gas in the field to justify the high cost of development and connection to the national gas grid.

The cost of discovery and drilling of a new gas field is typically measured in the tens of millions of dollars.

Once a gas field is determined to be commercially viable, the gas must be piped to a processing plant to ensure that impurities such as carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide and nitrogen are removed, before the gas can be piped into the grid.

Each of the processes listed above must be conducted in sequential order, and can take years to complete.

The moratorium has contributed to the worsening of Victoria’s energy deficit over recent years.

Victoria’s change in policy has undoubtedly been triggered by the Federal Government’s decision to make funding for future energy projects dependent on the lifting of state bans on gas exploration and development.

The significance of the Victorian Government’s decision will extend to New South Wales, where the Liberal Government is currently delaying the development of a coal-seam gas field at Narrabri, in northern NSW.

One of Australia’s leading gas producers, Santos, has already spent $1 billion on plans to drill 850 wells near Narrabri, mainly in the Pilliga State Forest, but has been held up for years by the NSW Government’s refusal to sign-off on the development on environmental grounds. The Narrabri field would ease the pressure on NSW gas supplies.

Coal-seam gas in Queensland has been crucial to the development of the gas export industry, but has been banned in other states because of fears of contamination of the water table and the adverse impact on farmland. (Tasmania and Victoria ban fracking completely, while the NT and WA moratoriums were lifted in 2018.)

These fears have been exploited by environmental organisations determined to prevent the development of new oil and gas fields in Australia.

As part of its announcement to permit gas exploration in Victoria, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that it would continue to ban “unconventional” gas production, including coal-seam gas and fracking (hydraulic fracturing of rock containing gas).

Little commercial natural gas has been discovered onshore in Victoria, despite exploration over many decades that found substantial gas deposits in both Bass Strait and off the coast of western Victoria. However, there would be large reserves if fracking were allowed.

Years ago, small gas deposits were discovered onshore in western Victoria near Port Campbell, but these have since been depleted.

However, discoveries just across the border in South Australia in recent years have generated renewed interest in onshore exploration.

The lifting of the moratorium on gas exploration in Victoria is a welcome move, but it will have no immediate impact on gas supplies or on the high price of energy in the state.

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm