Construction officially begins today on the 622-kilometre-long Northern Gas Pipeline to run from Tennant Creek to Mt Isa, with more than 90 people attending a sod-turning ceremony at the Phillip Creek compressor station.
The $800 million pipeline will connect the Northern Territory to the national gas grid, and has been touted as a possible solution to the supposed east coast gas shortage.
Michael Pintabona, spokesman for the company behind the project, Asian conglomerate Jemena, said the pipeline was being built to transport 90 terajoules of gas per day to Mount Isa, but to contribute any more gas than that, the project would need a more consistent supply.
Currently the gas came from the Black Tip Point reserve, but Mr Pintabona said if more became available the pipeline could be expanded to transport up to 700 terajoules, however a current moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the NT was currently limiting that potential.
If the moratorium was lifted, and areas such as the Beetaloo Basin, which was in exploration phase only, put their hand up to have gas transported Mr Pintabona said it would be ideal for the pipeline.
Previously environmental groups have criticised the pipeline, stating that any gas sent across the border would go overseas.
However Mr Pintabona said the company’s contracts at the moment were for domestic use.
« Our initial foundation customer is a domestic customer, and it is about making sure there is more gas available in the whole of the east coast, » he said.
According to the company the project will supply 900 jobs over the construction, with 600 of those jobs earmarked for locals, but it was not entirely clear on how many of those would be ongoing.
« Once we move into the day-to-day operational phase there will be ongoing roles as well, » Mr Pintabona said.
Local pastoralists and traditional owners have welcomed and criticised the project, saying it will have a positive and negative impact on the community.
The pipeline runs through Sandy Warby’s cattle property, Phillip Creek station, which also has the compressor station positioned on it.
He said the development had forced him to invest in additional infrastructure for the grazing operation.
« It will have a bit of an effect with the pipeline going through past some of our watering points and where cattle are grazing, » he said.
« As a provision we have been putting in extra watering points to try and get the cattle away from all the activity