A coal seam gas production well near Chinchilla. Photo credit: David Martinelli
A coal seam gas production well near Chinchilla. Photo credit: David Martinelli

Calls to diversify Surat Basin economy away from CSG

COMMUNITY leaders across the Western Downs have shown concern over the monopoly the multi-billion coal seam gas (CSG) industry has over the region's economy.

Councillor Ian Rasmussen said the region needs to be quick in diversifying the economy before the gas reserves are depleted.

"Council is trying to diversify into different industry," he said.

"When the gas resource runs out, hopefully we'll be able to replace it with something else."

Cr Rasmussen said the trend for mining and gas industries across the world was to pack up and move to other areas once the industry is no longer productive.

"In 10 years' time, the CSG will be depleted so the companies will pack up and move.

"We have from now until then to do something about that.

"What will happen if you get to the stage of Acland?

"You get to the stage where the mine closes, people are going to pack up and leave!"

One of the biggest challenges of diversification is training local workers for future industries.

"We need to be starting on the bottom end and looking for apprentices and traineeships," Cr Rasmussen said.

"Our kids can't be coming out of school thinking they will be working in oil and gas."

But Council is moving to establish new industries, such as renewable energy, in the hopes that the local economy can thrive after the CSG industry packs up.

"We've got the agriculture sector, we've got manufacturing," Cr Rasmussen said.

Chinchilla Community Commerce & Industry president Shannon McDermott said Chinchilla's economy and workforce rely heavily on the CSG industry.

"We'd love to see that change and transition over time," he said.

"It's actually a goal of CCCI to transition our reliance away from CSG."

Mr McDermott said diversification is an opportunity to become more self-sustainable.

"My understanding is the CSG industry is still going strong for a number of years to come.

"It all comes down to the planning and being able to execute.

"Attracting the different forms of manufacturing to the region is definitely something that we need to be looking at."

Renewable energy, hydrogen, agriculture and manufacturing were some of the industries Mr McDermott believes could be considered in the future.

The natural gas sector contributed $55 billion to the economy between 2011 and 2018, according to a report from the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA).

A spokeswoman for Shell said QGC plans to stay in the region for decades to come.

We are continuing to invest in the economic future of the region, having recently announced investments in the Gangarri solar project near Wandoan and phase one of Arrow's Surat Gas project," she said.

"This particular project is underpinned by a 27-year Gas Sales Agreement to supply gas to Shell's QGC joint venture that was signed in 2017.

"We recognise the benefits of a local workforce, with around 36 per cent of QGC employees living locally in the region."

Despite concerns about the local workforce moving away, Shell believes the local economy will be stronger and more diverse after gas projects cease.

"Our aim is that when our operations finish in the region, the local economy is stronger and more diverse and that we have contributed to that growth," the spokeswoman said.

"QGC is focused on equipping students for the jobs of the future by supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics education."


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