RESEARCH examining gas exploration in Victoria has supported the potential for more underground gas storage and offshore gas development in Victoria, and found that an onshore conventional gas industry would not compromise the state's environmental and agricultural credentials.
The Geological Survey of Victoria has concluded with the release of the fifth and final Victorian Gas Program Progress Report, an evidence base for decision making and assessment of environmental assets, land uses and landscape features across the south-west region and Gippsland.
The survey involved a suite of geoscientific, technical and environmental research to deliver the most comprehensive scientific study of onshore conventional gas ever undertaken in the state, setting the path for the restart of onshore conventional gas exploration and development from July 1, 2021.
The restart does not include fracking or coal seam gas, which are permanently banned in Victoria.
But the state opposition says the $40 million gas study confirms Labor's policies had "cost money and killed jobs".
It says Labor's decision to extend its moratorium on conventional onshore gas exploration until July 2021 had "no real economic or environmental benefit".
The review into Victoria's gas industry took more than three years, and found that developing gas resources to secure local gas supply would have a negligible impact on Victoria's greenhouse gas emissions.
Shadow resources minister Ryan Smith said the report showed that restarting conventional onshore gas exploration and production would lead to the discovery of an additional 830 petajoules of gas, beyond current known reserves, or about three years' worth of Victoria's annual consumption.
Mr Smith said the report showed the moratorium had been "senseless", and that lifting it would increase gas supply and drive down prices, "which have increased 125 per cent from December 2014 to December 2019".
The studies were overseen by Victoria's Lead Scientist, Dr Amanda Caples, who chaired an independent stakeholder advisory panel including farmer, environmental, industry and local council representatives.
The Geological Survey of Victoria has led regional engagement activities across the state, helping to identify the need to improve the regulatory provisions for greater engagement when the industry restarts.
The report found the restart of onshore conventional gas exploration and development from mid this year would deliver further economic and community benefits, with projects having the potential to generate about $300 million annually and create about 6400 jobs over three decades.
Industry can begin on-the-ground exploration and development activity again from July 1 this year, once the best practice regulatory framework is in place.
Consultation regarding the new regulations will take place early in 2021.
Head of Resources John Krbaleski said the Victorian Gas Program had delivered important work which "underpinned the creation of new jobs and benefits for the state's energy supply".
"I would like to thank the thousands of people and organisations that have engaged with this program of work over the last three years," he said.
"Further updates will be provided in the new year as we move through the regulatory process towards the restart of the onshore conventional gas industry on July 1, 2021."
A new animation tells the Victorian Gas Program story and it is available, along with technical reports and the individual scientific studies, at earthresources.vic.gov.au/gasprogram.