North Australia Digest – 19/12/2012

The Australian
A “high-level advisory report” to Australia’s energy and resources ministers warns that restrictions on shipping uranium could hinder the country from becoming a major supplier of the resource. Although Australia has the world’s largest uranium stocks, it is producing and exporting well below its potential as capital and operating costs rise more rapidly than elsewhere in the world. “Duplicative and unnecessary environmental assessment processes, restrictions on accessing ports to ship uranium and public misconceptions are priorities that must be addressed,” the report says.
Chinese company PetroChina is set to buy Australian coal-seam gas junior WestSide, with an announcement expected before Christmas or early in the new year. The move is a part of continued Chinese expansion into Queensland’s coal-seam gas export projects; China now has interests in four of the five export projects that are trying to ship LNG out of Gladstone.
The Australian Financial Review
The International Energy Agency has said Australia’s ability to return to its position as the world’s largest coal exporter will depend on Chinese demand for the resource. If demand can remain high enough, global prices will be at a level where Australian mines can remain economical. If Chinese demand slows, some high-cost Australian operations would be forced to close and fewer new projects would be able to be developed. The report says that other exporters, such as Indonesia, profit from “a lower cost structure throughout the entire coal value chain and consequently are less likely to be affected by the China Slowdown”.
Environmental groups have blasted the Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority’s decision on Tuesday to pass Woodside’s Browse LNG project without being subjected to a stand-alone approval process, declaring the gas processing hub as a “derived proposal”. The EPA has said that Woodside’s proposal “fits within the strictly defined precinct footprint” for James Price Point.
The Age
An assessment released by the Centre for International Economics has found the Climate Change Authority’s Renewable Energy Target has failed five key measures of policy effectiveness. Australian Coal Association chief executive Nikki Williams said the RET was ineffective in encouraging carbon dioxide abatement, research, development and demonstration, enhancing energy security, providing investment certainty and acting as a supportive policy for the carbon tax. “These renewable sources are currently more expensive than other sources such as coal,” Williams said.
The West Australian
The West Australian also reports on the approval process surrounding Woodside Petroleum’s Browse project. EPA chairman Paul Vogel says green groups are attempting to “rewrite history” by ignoring previous approval processes undertaken on the project. “We have been involved in this assessment since 2007,” Dr Vogel said, “There will be some people that just do not want anything to happen at that site”.
Federal approval of Toro Energy’s Wiluna uranium project in Western Australia has been delayed at least four months. Environment Minister Tony Burke said that he required more information before making a decision, even though Toro had expected a decision to be made by today and has already secured State Government environmental approval