Gas ranks third behind coal and uranium as Australia's largest energy resource
Australia has enough gas reserves to maintain current production for almost 200 years, according to a report released on Monday, supporting the nation's push to become a global exporter to rival Qatar.
The nation has identified gas resources of about 390 trillion cubic feet, but this could double if exploration for shale gas is successful, Energy and Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said.
"This report reconfirms Australia's capacity to continue to be a major gas exporter supplying the world's growing demand for gas well into the future," he said.
As Australia rides a minerals boom, Ferguson said the nation's known gas resources, which the report found would maintain current production rates for 184 years, could rocket.
"While exploration for shale gas in Australia has only recently commenced and resources are poorly understood, shale gas could potentially double Australia's gas resources," he said.
Gas ranks third behind coal and uranium as the country's largest energy resource, the Australian Gas Resources Assessment 2012 found.
Most of the country's conventional gas resources sit off the north-west coast and are being progressively developed for domestic use and liquid natural gas (LNG) export.
The report by Geoscience Australia, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics and the Department of Resources found the industry was being transformed by technology and markets, with new gas resources coming into play.
"In the past two years coal seam gas (CSG) reserves have doubled and three CSG/LNG projects are now under construction," it said.
"There have also been major new offshore conventional gas projects that have committed and commenced construction, including Ichthys in the Browse Basin and Prelude, the world's first floating LNG project."
The report found that Australia's gas resources were large enough to support projected domestic and export market growth to 2035 and beyond and were also set to expand.
Because gas is a relatively flexible and clean fuel it is forecast to be the fastest growing non-renewable energy source over the next 25 years, particularly for Asian economies looking for cleaner energy.
Australia exported about 20 million tons of LNG valued at Aus$10.4 billion (US$10.4 billion) in 2010-11, primarily to Asia, Ferguson said.
"This is forecast to grow by a further 19 percent in 2012-13," he added.
"Based on projects under construction, LNG production capacity is projected to quadruple by 2017 to make Australia one of the world's largest exporters of LNG."