The Narrabri gas project is a natural gas development project proposed to be developed in the north-western part of New South Wales (NSW), Australia.

Santos, through its subsidiary Santos NSW, proposes the £2.76bn ($3.6bn) coal seam gas project that can potentially fulfill up to half of NSW’s gas needs.

However, the project has faced widespread protests on grounds that it would affect the aboriginal culture, farm areas, and water of the area.

Approved by the NSW Independent Planning Commission in September 2020, the project is currently due for the federal government approval.

The project is expected to create approximately 1,300 jobs during the peak construction period and 200 direct jobs during the operational phase.

It will also reduce the natural gas imports of NSW and contribute approximately £920m ($1.2bn) in royalties directly to the NSW government.

Location and site details

The Narrabri gas project is located approximately 20km southwest of the town of Narrabri. The project development will occupy approximately 1,000ha of a 95,000ha site.

About two-thirds of the project land lies in the Pilliga State Forest, with the remaining on privately-owned farmland located to the north of the forest.

The project excludes area mapped by the NSW government as Biophysical Strategic Agricultural Land (BSAL) and drilling will only take place in private lands.

The site is accessible through Kamilaroi highway and is surrounded by Pilliga East State Conservation Area, Pilliga East State Forest, Bibblewindi State Forest, and Jacks Creek State Forest.

Narrabri coal seam gas project development details

The Narrabri gas project involves drilling of up to 850 coal seam gas wells on 425 well pads within the project area in and around the Pilliga village, excluding the Pilliga National Park and Nature Reserve.

The developer aims to extract the extensive gas resources trapped within the deep coal seams of the Gunnedah Basin. Approximately 95% of the targeted coal seams come from the Maules Creek formation, with the remaining from the Black Jack Group.

Exploration in the Gunnedah Basin began in the 1960s and the petroleum exploration license (PEL) 238 was issued in the 1980s. The basin contains an estimated 1,500 petajouls (PJ) of coal seam gas resources trapped in the deep coal seams between 800m and 1,200m underneath the surface.

The project will produce an estimated 200 terajoules (TJ) of natural gas and extract up to four megalitres of saline water per day from the coal seams.

Infrastructure at Narrabri Gas project

For gas exploration, appraisal, and production infrastructure, a seismic geophysical survey was carried out for modeling the project infrastructure at Leewood and Bibblewindi facilities.

The Leewood infrastructure facility for the project will involve a central gas processing facility for compression, dehydration, and treatment of gas, a central water management facility, an optional power generation facility, safety flare, treated wastewater facility, apart from the administrative and operations block.

The Bibblewindi facility will comprise an in-field compression facility, safety flare, supporting infrastructure for storage, utility, treated water holding, and communications facilities, as well as the produced water, brine, and construction water storage facilities.

The Bibblewindi to Leewood infrastructure corridor will be widened for the construction and operation of an additional buried medium pressure gas pipeline, a water pipeline, a 132kV power line, and communications transmission lines.

Gas supply details

The natural gas produced by the project will be supplied to the NSW gas transmission network via a new 460km-long pipeline, which will have interconnections to the existing Moomba to Sydney pipeline.

Being built by APA Group, the proposed Western Slopes pipeline is subject to various approvals.

The pipeline will originate from the north of the Pilliga National Park and Pilliga West State Conservation Areas and then head towards the southwest to connect to the Moomba Sydney pipeline, approximately 100km west of Condobolin.