Australia counting on offshore oil, gas for economy

Aug 11, 2016 12:00 AM

The more than two dozen areas opened up to energy explorers off the western coast of Australia could help with global energy ambitions, a minister said.

The government opened 28 new areas for exploration of the coast of Western Australia. Matt Canavan, the minister of natural resources for the region, said the areas offer a wide range of options for potential explorers and could boost the prospects for Australia's energy economy.

"Offshore extraction of gas will help Australia become the world's leading exporter of liquefied natural gas in coming years," he said in a statement.

Energy company Santos leads an $18.5 billion project designed to convert coal seam natural gas to liquefied natural gas for exports to the global market. The Curtis Island LNG project is fed by a 260-mile underground pipeline from the Bowen and Surat basins in Queensland.

Chevron, which has headquarters in California, is positioned as a major player in the region, shipping the first delivery of liquefied natural gas from its multi-billion dollar Gorgon project in early 2016 to Japanese company Chubu Electric Power.

Chevron already supplies the area with about 10 percent of its natural gas. Its Wheatstone project should build on the company's footprint when it starts servicing the domestic Australian market by 2018.

The Reserve Bank of Australia last week lowered its cash rate to 1.5 percent, and said the prospects for sustainable economic growth would be improved by easing monetary policy. The bank said business investments have dropped off considerably, though its export economy is performing well. Labor, meanwhile, is mixed and the rate of inflation in the Australian economy "remains quite low."

The bank said the pace of economic growth in China, a potential trading partner for LNG, was moderating.

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