Northern Territory government moves to legalise the sale of fracking exploration gas from next year

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Environmentalists are questioning why fracked gas could soon be sold before full production approvals are granted in the Northern Territory, months after a similar proposal from a gas company was dropped because it was unlawful.

Energy giant Origin proposed using or selling gas extracted during the appraisal or exploration phase — where companies test the viability of gas reserves — in a licence application for the Beetaloo Basin earlier this year.

The proposal was later removed from the application because it was not allowed under the Petroleum Act, but the company flagged at the time that it may be authorised in future.

The territory government is now set to legislate the change, saying it would allow appraisal-phase gas to power local communities rather than being released or burned at the point of extraction.

“We pointed out in our response to [Origin’s] application that would not be legal under the Petroleum Act, and now we see the government proposing to amend the Petroleum Act in a way that would make that legal for future companies,” Hannah Ekin from the Arid Lands Environment Centre said.

“To me, that raises a lot of questions around how much the government’s legal reforms are being driven by gas industry priorities.”

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Origin Energy quits Beetaloo fracking project

The proposal was not mentioned in a landmark fracking inquiry that has acted as a guiding document for NT gas regulation since the government agreed to implement its 135 recommendation before production goes ahead.

The government did not directly respond to a question about whether the industry had requested the change.

Proposal welcomed by industry

The government said the Petroleum Act amendment would only be allowed once all the recommendations were met.



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