There are 8 new proposed gas projects across the continent - opening just one of these would be catastrophic for the climate. Gas is a fossil fuel driving climate change - we do not need new gas to transition to renewable energy.
In Labor’s October 2022 Budget Update, they announced $1.9 billion for an industrial precinct called the Middle Arm. Located near Darwin, Middle Arm would include petrochemical processing and expanded gas export facilities. The project would also have renewable hydrogen production and critical minerals processing infrastructure.
Image: Middle Arm, Darwin
According to environmental experts, Middle Arm’s gas export and processing infrastructure will help facilitate the opening of gas basins in the Beetaloo and Barossa. Gas extraction in these basins has faced strong opposition from Traditional Owners, and would release significant amounts of methane and CO2.
Additionally, Middle Arm itself would have concerning impacts on emissions and local community health. The project would be the NT’s single largest emitter, raising the territory’s emissions by 75%, and would increase particulate pollution by over 500%, resulting in $75 million in additional health costs, equivalent to 15 additional premature deaths per year.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has repeatedly called for countries to stop fossil fuel expansion. In the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment report in 2022, the panel reiterated that existing and currently planned fossil fuel projects already overshoot the world’s carbon budget.
Australia currently has more than 116 major fossil fuel projects in development. Collectively, these projects could release 1.7bn tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, equivalent to 5% of global emissions. 43 of these major fossil fuel projects are for liquified natural gas (LNG), gas, and petroleum. Gas is highly emissions intensive, both as a fuel and in its production. Its primary emission, methane, is 84 times more potent than one tonne of carbon dioxide.
Australia is currently the world’s largest exporter of LNG (24% of global exports), exporting 80 million tonnes of LNG per year. 70% of gas extracted in Australia is exported, with the remaining 30% split across homes, manufacturing, and electricity generation.
Gas usage and exports:
Domestically, Australia already produces gas in excess of local needs. Domestic gas prices do not decrease in line with gas production; gas prices have surged in recent years despite a tripling in gas production over the past decade. Rather than bringing down domestic prices, surplus gas is just used for additional exports. Gas use has also fallen in recent years, reaching its lowest point in 15 years in 2021, making up just 5.7% of electricity generation for the national energy market. There are no reputable energy scenarios that show domestic gas use growing over coming decades.
Despite this, approximately 28% of Australia’s land mass is either under exploration for gas, or has active applications from gas companies. 70% of the NT, 59% of SA, 14% of WA and 13% of QLD is covered by licences or applications. The LNP also opened an additional 80,000km2 of offshore water to gas exploration.
Domestic gas cost and health:
Burning gas at home can have significant impacts on human health. Cooking with gas is estimated to have caused 12% of childhood asthma cases in Australia. Living in a house with gas cooking puts a child at similar risk of asthma to one living in a house with cigarette smoke.
Switching from gas to electric appliances is better for a household’s health, and for their wallet; depending on location, households switching to all electric heating, cooking and hot water could save between $500 to $1900 a year.