September 22, 2014

It’s unlikely to be an event noticed by Sydney’s millions. But sometime between now and Christmas, a ship will leave Gladstone harbour in central Queensland, with a cargo that will have a profound effect upon the lives of all who inhabit NSW’s Harbour City.

The cargo will be liquefied natural gas (LNG) – about 140,000 cubic metres of it.

It will be the first of thousands of shipments from Gladstone in coming decades that will deliver affordable, reliable and cleaner energy to the world.

Never before, anywhere, has natural gas from coal seams been converted into LNG for export.

In Gladstone, six giant refrigerators, known as “trains”, will push the gas temperature down to -161C, turning it into a liquid to make transportation much easier and cheaper.

There are companies currently spending $65 billion (yes, billion) on three such projects in Queensland as I write.

And while the beneficiaries of these enormous projects will be many, not many people in NSW will be among them in the short-term.

Why? Because while Queensland has been sensibly developing its gas industry over the past 10 years, NSW has not.

The difference is stark.

NSW is facing rising gas prices and possibly gas supply shortages while Queensland has a gas industry that has so far created 40,000 jobs and which will provide $561 million in state royalties next financial year.

The Queensland Treasurer’s Budget speech said the state’s growth in 2015-16 will be the highest in the country off the back of gas exports.

Successful gas development has not been without its critics. Yet companies, lawmakers, farmers and scientists have spent time to cooperate towards mutual benefit.

NSW can take heart from that lead to actively determine its own future.

The state today consumes almost a quarter of the east coast natural gas supply, but produces less than 1 per cent of that supply. Despite enormous natural gas resources, consumers and industries are in for higher-than- necessary price shocks while they remain undeveloped.

There are no proposals for natural gas projects in NSW of similar scale to what we’re witnessing in Queensland.

However, there are several projects throughout the state that aim to source natural gas for use within the state.

There is a golden opportunity to strive for energy security, making support for these projects paramount.

First published as an opinion article in The Daily Telegraph on 23 September.