LNG output to treble

AUSTRALIA’S liquefied natural gas exports are set to at least treble by the end of decade, delivering a windfall boost to WA’s North-West which is already exporting $3 billion a year.

WA Minister for Resources Development, Colin Barnett told Business News LNG production would rise from 7.5 million tonnes today to between 20 million and 30 million tonnes by 2010.

Mr Barnett said LNG will prove to be Australia’s most important future natural resource.

“What we are now seeing in WA is the emergence of a large processing gas chemical industry – near Karratha, as well as in the north of Australia,” he said.

“Scott Reef and Brecknock are vast reserves. Some people would compare it at this stage with the development of the petroleum industry in the Gulf of Mexico 40 years ago. We have a spectacular resource.”

The Minister’s comments followed the announcement earlier this month of a proposed $4.5 billion investment in a Methanex backed methanol plant to be based near Darwin, using piped natural gas from the Timor Sea.

Initial studies showed it would return an estimated $1 billion for 20 years.

Methanol made from natural gas is used as a basic chemical building block or feedstock.

Cars of the future could well run on methanol derived fuel. It is also used to produce derivatives required to make many common products from paints to inks, solvents, resins, adhesives, foams, silicones and polyester and plastic containers.

A $600 million gas-liquids plant with expected revenues of up to $7.5 billion over two decades has also been planned for the WA Burrup Peninsula by US-based Syntroleum Corporation as well as petrochemicals, urea and ammonia projects.

All of these gas based proposals are hugely significant to establish Australia as a future major player in global petrochemical markets.

What we can expect to see in these new state-of-the-art industrial sites of tomorrow will be environmentally clean chemical plants based on the use of natural gas. They can include LNG expansion, ethylene di-chloride, plastics, fertilisers, ammonia, urea and ammonium nitrate, petroleum products even oil - far cleaner when made from gas - as well as methanol and gas-to-liquid products.

Speaking of the consistently significant natural gas finds by exploration companies this year in the Browse and Bonaparte Basin areas off the Far NW Kimberley Coast of Australia – many times larger than the discoveries in the Timor - Mr Barnett said there were already 115 trillion cubic feet there of proven reserves of natural gas.

The off-shore Kimberley area was recently referred to by Woodside Energy as the Greater North West Shelf.

Exploration companies operating in areas of the Browse and Bonaparte Basins at Brecknock and Scott Reef have been making excellent strikes throughout this year since off-shore seismic testing and drilling teams began work around March. Sophisticated technology now makes it possible to more easily drill deepwater blocks and interpret technical data.

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