PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has flagged plans to ramp up gas field operations at Wallumbilla as part of the federal government’s “gas fired recovery” from the coronavirus economic downturn.

Under the plan the existing Wallumbilla Gas Supply Hub, where the region’s gas resources are diverted to Gladstone for export, will become the so-called Australian Gas Hub, connecting the Surat Basin network to new gas projects being developed in New South Wales.

The Australian Gas Hub network is aimed to bring down the cost of production and link the country’s gas networks to liquified natural gas port facilities.

The government announced $28 million to be spent developing “strategic blueprints” to unlock five new gas basins around the country, including Queensland’s North Bowen, Galilee and Cooper basins.

Close to $11 million will be spent identifying priority pipelines and critical infrastructure as part of a National Gas Infrastructure Plan to be updated every two years.

“We’ve got to get more gas,” Mr Morrison said to a business conference in the NSW Hunter region.

“Get more gas, more often and more reliably by resetting our east coast gas market, unlocking additional gas to drive recovery, paving the way, ultimately, for a world leading Australian Gas Hub to support high wage jobs including and especially in manufacturing.

“We need to accelerate development of new basins, like the Beetaloo in the Northern Territory and Narrabri in New South Wales, as well as open up more development in existing basins in Queensland where substantial reserves remain untouched.”

Diagram of the current Wallumbilla Gas Supply Hub. IMAGE: AEMO

The current Wallumbilla Gas Supply Hub is managed by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) which was established under the Rudd Government in 2009 to help ensure households could access secure, affordable and reliable energy.

The “gas fired recovery” would put more focus on putting domestic gas consumers “on a level playing field” with overseas buyers, Mr Morrison said.

Management of the new and improved Australian Gas Hub would be modelled on the Henry Hub in the United States, which Mr Morrison said was the “international gold standard” for gas trading markets.

“(The Henry Hub is) highly regarded for its transparency, its liquidity and its certainty,” he said.

“We should adapt the best parts of this system and make it work for Australian circumstances.”

Maranoa MP David Littleproud, whose electorate includes Wallumbilla, said he welcomed the announcements and the employment opportunities new gas development could bring.

“This is a big win for Maranoa and shows clear investment in the future of our region,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Wallumbilla already plays a key role in Australia’s gas market as the most strategically located and connected gas trading hub, but this plan will see the Wallumbilla Hub further enhanced to become an even more important, transparent gas trading system as the Australian Gas Hub.”

“Further development of the Wallumbilla Hub will bring huge potential to our region – this is a big win for jobs, industry and the local economy in Maranoa.”

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the Tomago aluminium smelter in the NSW Hunter region

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