Cow town could cash in on methane gas bonanza

by Will Jackson

DEPUTY Prime Minister Mark Vaile believes local industries will be major beneficiaries of Metgasco Ltd's plan to tap into natural gas reserves around Casino.

Mr Vaile yesterday visited one of the company's test sites outside Casino to announce more than $1 million in Sustainable Regions Programme funding to go towards its exploratory drilling program.

The money will fund two test wells used to determine how much methane gas is available in the reserves.

The company hopes to find enough gas for three markets, but most will be piped to South-east Queensland to be sold on the national energy market.

Managing director David Johnson said Metgasco was contracted to supply 18 petajoules to Queensland energy company CS Energy.

In contrast, the Richmond Valley Power Plant, expected to provide power for 30,000 residents once completed some time next year, would require only about 2.5 petajoules. Plans to supply gas directly to local businesses would take about 1 petajoule.

Mr Vaile said Metgasco's gas could provide a cheap alternative energy source for local businesses and provide an incentive for industries to move to the area.

"We are talking about significant cost savings for business and residents ? pipeline gas is one third of the cost of bottled gas," he said.

With the right mix of affordable land costs, good transport infrastructure and cheap energy, Casino could become the industrial heart of the Northern Rivers.

Mr Vaile also highlighted the environmental benefits of gas saying it produced substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal.

The Regional Partnerships program is an Australian Government initiative that helps regional communities address their priority issues.

The North Coast has been allocated up to $12 million to June 2008 under the initiative. Mr Vaile said local business involved in alternative energy sources, such as solar or wind, were welcome to apply for grants.



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