19/08/2009 - 13:02

Gorgon enhances WA-China relationship

19/08/2009 - 13:02

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A leading economist believes the record $50 billion Gorgon liquified natural gas deal with China could lead Western Australia into a "symbiotic" relationship with the Asian giant while the Greens reiterated the deal hasn't received environmental approval.

Gorgon enhances WA-China relationship

A leading economist believes the record $50 billion Gorgon liquified natural gas deal with China could lead Western Australia into a "symbiotic" relationship with the Asian giant while the Greens reiterated the deal hasn't received environmental approval.

Curtin University Professor of economic policy Peter Kenyon said the deal, signed between Gorgon partner ExxonMobil and Chinese energy giant PetroChina, would create ongoing opportunities for the WA mining and business sectors.

"One of the things that people have kind of lost perspective with in the economic downturn is that WA is ideally placed in a symbiotic way to be involved with China long-term," Prof Kenyon said.

He said the Gorgon deal was evidence the WA economy "is in good shape long term".

"These things tend to have a domino effect, especially with a very big project like this," Prof Kenyon said.

He said the deal could give WA more political standing nationally, with increasing government funds for development in outer regional areas.

Perth was also poised to become a major hub for internationally recognised mining technology advancements, he said.

"It's not champagne cork stuff but this is an opportunity for Perth to develop its kind of breadth as a mining and petroleum gas centre in the long, long term," Prof Kenyon said.

"We will eventually have the business infrastructure here to ensure the long-term economic health of the city and the state."

Prof Kenyan likened the potential growth of WA as a mining powerhouse, and the emergence of Perth as a leading technology hub, to that of Texas as a long-standing energy centre.

"Once upon a time Texas oil was really important and that's why Houston became the oil and gas capital of the world," he said.

"Now Texas oil doesn't really matter at all, but Houston is still the oil and gas capital of the world."

The project will be the biggest single investment ever made in Australia, breaking the $25 billion Gorgon LNG deal concluded last week with India and the $12 billion Pluto LNG project, now under construction in WA.

Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said the unprecedented export deal would create about 6,000 jobs at the peak of the Gorgon project.

Meanwhile, the Greens have asked the federal government to explain how it can endorse the $50 billion Gorgon gas deal with China before environmental approvals have been made.

While federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett is yet to approve the Barrow Island project off Australia's northwest coast, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said on Wednesday he expected it would receive the government's final tick of approval.

West Australian Greens senator Rachel Siewert said Mr Garrett's role had been relegated to the status of a rubber stamp approval.

"The message to us seems clear - threatened species will not be allowed to get in the way of development under Rudd, and environmental conditions are nothing more than a means of green-washing projects destined to go ahead regardless of their environmental impacts," Senator Siewert said.

"Barrow Island has been dubbed 'Australia's Ark' for its unique range of endangered species, with 24 species and sub-species preserved on the island, many of who are extinct or endangered on mainland Australia."

Endemic species on the island include the spectacled hare-wallaby, the Barrow Island golden bandicoot, the Barrow Island mouse and the Barrow Island burrowing bettong.

Senator Siewert said all those species faced possible extinction if proper environmental restrictions and controls were not put in place.

"There is also the carbon footprint of this plant to consider," she said.

Gorgon's gas has a high CO2 content, meaning its emissions would be at least 5.45 million tonnes a year even if carbon geosequestration could be achieved, she said.

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