Santos to meet NSW premier over Narrabri

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The boss of Santos will meet the NSW premier to resolve confusion and delays to the $3.6 billion Narrabri Gas Project, after the mining company and the government reportedly developed divergent views.


The controversial project across 95,000 hectares in the Pilliga forest and nearby grazing land in northwest NSW has the potential to provide up to half of NSW's natural gas needs in the next 20 years.

But it has been bogged down in the first part of a four-stage approval process since the NSW Independent Commission green-lit the project in 2020.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said he decided to step in after reports that Santos and the government's planning department had developed divergent views on the project.

"Energy security is the biggest issue facing the country right now," the premier told reporters on Friday.

"I want to get that project up and running as quickly as possible. Gas security is crucial to long-term security," he added.

"I want to cut red tape out, and I want to get rid of bureaucracy and I want to get the job done."

The premier spoke with his bureaucrats this week ahead of a meeting with Santos chief executive Kevin Gallagher next week.

Santos, which is approved to operate the project until 2045, can drill up to 850 new gas wells on up to 425 new well pads across the region.

Up to 1300 construction and 200 operational jobs will be created, the oil and gas giant says.

A handful of pilot wells have been drilled already and the planning secretary has approved management plans for waste, on-site fires and Aboriginal cultural heritage.

But a rehabilitation management plan is still pending approval, having only been ticked off by the resources regulator in October.

Phase two of the project, comprising construction for production wells and activities, is expected to commence in mid-to-late 2023, Santos says.

Gas will potentially be routed through a yet-to-be-constructed gas pipeline between Queensland and Newcastle recently acquired by Santos.

The project has been heavily criticised by farming and conservation groups.

Australian Conservation Foundation has called Narrabri a "climate bomb" while Lock The Gate says building fossil-fuel infrastructure as the world decarbonises "made no sense".

Meanwhile, Mr Perrottet has revealed he will engage former Snowy Hydro boss Paul Broad as a special advisor on energy.

A former head of Infrastructure NSW, Mr Broad quit as chief executive in August amid tensions with federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen and against a backdrop of cost blowouts and delays to the Snowy 2.0 hydropower project.

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