Offshore gas project

Julianne Langshaw

A NEW gas project off Golden Beach is in the pipeline, which could be producing gas for the domestic market as early as mid-2021.

While it’s early days, still requiring appraisals and regulatory approvals, proponents GB Energy say if it goes ahead, it will provide local jobs, especially during the pipeline construction phase.

The field is just three to four kilometres from the shoreline between Golden Beach and Glomar Beach, but there won’t be an offshore platform.

Proponents say there are numerous hurdles to clear before the proposal becomes reality, but if it does, it will eventually provide a first for the Victorian east coast by allowing for a reservoir for gas storage for the market, which can be drawn down during “commercially opportune periods” which often occur at peak times in winter and summer.

Discovered in 1967, the field has not been developed to date because of its size and ‘dry’ gas specification (the field contains no oil or gas liquids, common in Gippsland gas fields).

It was acquired by GB Energy in May.

GB Energy regulatory and health, safety and environmental manager Sean Dunn, and Iain McCoy, who is involved in the project management, are at pains to point out it is not part of the CarbonNet project,which is investigating the potential for establishing a commercial-scale carbon capture and storage network off Golden Beach.

The area covered by the GB Energy project is a fraction of the size of the area under investigation by CarbonNet, and at much shallower depths — the GB Energy gas field is only about 600 metres below the surface.

While there are geological and geophysical surveys yet to be done (probably in March-April for about two weeks), Mr McCoy said early investigations had indicated the quality of the gas was extremely high and little processing would be needed.

The geophysical and geotechnical surveys will involve an area of about four square kilometres and will use a small vessel fitted with a multi-beam echo sounder, side scan sonar, low energy shallow seismic equipment and a magnetometer.

Mr McCoy said it was expected seismic testing pulse source would be minimal — less than 95 per cent of a traditional seismic program.

It was not expected anything would be heard onshore.

The surveys would determine where a jack-up rig could be placed, which would be on site for about 40 days.

“Hopefully we’ll drill some holes in the next year if it all goes to plan with assessments,” Mr Dunn said.

“We see this as a really exciting project for the district.”

The appraisal period will look at the volume and characteristics of the gas in the field and the suitability of the reservoir for gas storage.

“If we go down the development path, everything will be sub-sea,” Mr McCoy said.

“Two sub-sea well heads are anticipated.”

A horizontally drilled pipeline would be drilled along an existing easement, reappearing behind the beach, linking up to a processing plant which hooks into the Eastern Gas Pipeline.

Proponents say the gas field is likely to produce about 40 to 80 terajoules of gas per day, with a production life of about three to four years before the gas is depleted.

After that, the plan is to use it as a reservoir to fill during low demand, and draw down on at times of peak demand.

Mr Dunn said the “ultimate goal” was the ability to store natural gas, as the market moved away from coal and towards renewable energy.

“Renewable energy is not going to cover the needs of the state,” he said.

“We need to support it with something.”

Mr McCoy agreed, saying the project would be part of “managing the fuel mix for Victoria”.

The main opportunity for jobs will be during the pipeline construction phase, but there will also be ongoing work at the processing plant and work checking on pipelines and maintaining equipment such as compressors.

“We want as much local labour as possible, and we’ll encourage contractors to use local labour,” Mr Dunn said.

There would also be spin-off economic benefits for accommodation and meal providers.

However, it is unclear how many jobs would be created.

GB Energy has already begun consultations with the community and other stakeholders, and says these will continue.

A community meeting will be held at the Golden Beach Hall on Saturday, December 8, from noon.

Proponents hope to return again in February for more consultation, which they hope to undertake every couple of months as the project proceeds.