POSITIVE SIGNS: Metgasco's early tests indicate commercial quantities of methane gas beneath and near its Casino drilling site.
POSITIVE SIGNS: Metgasco's early tests indicate commercial quantities of methane gas beneath and near its Casino drilling site. Northern Star

Exploration firm fired up over Casino gas find

THE cattle industry may have contributed to Casino being the region's methane capital, but a different kind of methane could be surging soon.

Three months of testing by Metgasco at South Casino indicates that there are commercial quantities of high-grade coal seam gas.

Managing director David Johnson said if the results of preliminary testing were verified it could be a very exciting time for gas exploration.

"It's an exciting development, discovering a new reservoir that hitherto had not been discovered," he said.

"During the past 100 years people have found little pockets of gas here and there, but this might represent a turning point in the exploration of this basin."

The company will now drill some more appraisal wells to confirm its initial findings were not just confined to the one location.

The next phases of testing will require landowner agreements and have to go through regulatory planning and approval processes.

Mr Johnson said if the preliminary testing confirmed the gas reserves, some of it could be piped to Ipswich and some used in a planned 30MW gas-fired power station in Casino, which Metgasco plans to construct.

"I think that in the event that some of the planned developments do go ahead it represents the establishment of a good new industry for that part of northern NSW," he said.

Metgasco hopes to pipe 20 petajoules (20 million gigajoules) yearly from the site and others nearby.

For commercial reasons, the price of natural gas is not publicly available. However, a government research paper published last month and filed in the parliamentary library quoted a 2006 price of between $3.50 and $3.80 per gigajoule.

At the lower rate, Metgasco could extract $70 million worth of gas per year.


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