On Wednesday night, Barnaby Joyce told Leigh Sales on the 7:30 Report that the Victorian Labor government was to blame for our gas shortage as they were sitting on huge reserves of gas but refused to develop them.
When Leigh Sales questioned him on that, pointing out that there are no known onshore gas reserves in Victoria, Barnaby told her she was wrong. The Minister for Resources seemed unable to identify any but said that if Sales had him on the program again he would tell her where they were.
When Malcolm Turnbull made the same claim in March this year, it was met with puzzlement from the energy market experts and the state government.
“In Victoria … there is a huge amount of gas, and, indeed, there is still a very large offshore gas resource in Bass Strait. There is also an enormous amount of gas onshore that can be accessed by conventional means, without fracking,” Mr Turnbull said. “The Victorian Labor government, as usual, guided by its alliance with the Greens, has banned conventional gas exploration and, of course, also unconventional gas exploration and development.”
A 2015 parliamentary inquiry found the state does have large reserves of conventional gas, but it is located in Bass Strait, where extraction is relatively non-controversial. There are currently no proven or probable onshore gas reserves in Victoria even though numerous exploration licences have been issued.
The Geological Survey of Victoria does, however, estimate that up to 110 petajoules of conventional gas could be accessible, subject to a comprehensive geoscientific investigation. To put that in context, 110 petajoules represents about six months’ supply, which is far from an “enormous” amount.
In their 2017-18 budget, the Victorian government allocated $42.5 million over four years for the Victorian Gas Program which they (unsuccessfully) invited the Federal government to add to, particularly to accelerate exploration and development of offshore gas.
The Victorian Gas Program has four major components:
– Delivering extensive scientific, technical and environmental studies on the risks, benefits and impacts of onshore conventional gas while the moratorium is in place until 30 June 2020. These studies will be overseen by the Lead Scientist and a Stakeholder Advisory Panel, made up of farmers, industry, local government and the community, with assistance from Geological Survey of Victoria. As there are no proven or probable onshore gas reserves in Victoria, the geoscience investigations for onshore conventional gas are designed to provide an evidence-based resource estimate.
– Supporting commercial exploration for further discoveries of gas off Victoria’s coast to help increase gas supply. This work will acquire new geoscientific information to identify prospective areas in the offshore part of the Otway geological basin.
– Investigating the opportunities for further underground gas storage in the onshore Otway geological basin to help secure more reliable gas supplies and to mitigate short term price peaks, particularly during any interruptions in the gas supply system.
– Supporting the work programs for onshore conventional gas and offshore gas, including resource planning, regulatory improvements and a comprehensive engagement program for farmers, industry, local government and regional communities.
The studies will be undertaken by scientists from the Geological Survey of Victoria and will focus on the Otway geological basin in south west Victoria and the Gippsland geological basin in south east Victoria.
I sure hope Leigh Sales takes Barnaby up on his offer to come back and identify these huge onshore reserves that no-one else knows about.
And if I was a state premier, I would be having a very serious conversation with the Federal government about how telling lies for political purposes is not helping the nation.