Tuesday, 11 February 2020
Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Cross-boundary Greenhouse Gas Titles and Other Measures) Bill 2019, Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Regulatory Levies) Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2019; Second Reading
I rise to speak on the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Cross-Boundary Greenhouse Gas Titles and Other Measures) Bill 2019 and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Regulatory Levies) Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2019, with mind to the fact that the world is moving towards a carbon-neutral future and we, in Australia, need to be on the front foot to lead the way in new technology to get there quicker.
There are two parts to these bills. The first is that the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Cross-Boundary Greenhouse Gas Titles and Other Measures) Bill 2019 amends the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006, OPGGS Act to enable title administration and regulation of a greenhouse gas storage formation that straddles the boundary between state and Northern Territory coastal waters and Commonwealth waters. It is bills like this that will help Australia lower emissions and facilitate carbon capture and storage that will benefit the environment and create jobs. This is economically sound climate action.
The world economy is transitioning to a carbon-neutral future in a bid to protect future generations from the effects of climate change. Most countries with the strongest ambitions for a carbon-neutral future rely on more renewables and other technologies, such as hydrogen and other technologies, to get there. As a smart country with willing citizenry, we are poised to identify new economic opportunities for Australia, particularly for technologies providing storage and backup to the electricity, industry and transport sectors. Last year the Morrison government led the National Hydrogen Strategy and increased our commitment to $500 million to support the development of this new industry, to ensure a sustainable, competitive and commercial hydrogen industry that will benefit all Australians and will be a major global player by 2030. The Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, calls it 'shipping sunshine in a bottle'. The second half of this legislation ensures greater powers for the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Environmental Management Authority to respond fully during any oil spill emergency. Australia's natural resources mean it could become one of the first countries to create a hydrogen export market. This means jobs, especially in my home state of Victoria in the Latrobe Valley, which desperately is in need of more good, well-paying jobs.
To lead the way in hydrogen and carbon capture and storage we need to facilitate new technology projects being investigated and the feasibility being understood. These bills seek to allow for cross-boundary single gas titles, particularly from state and territory coastal waters to Commonwealth waters. This will unify two greenhouse gas titles where a titleholder has reasonable grounds to suspect that there is a geological formation that sits on either side of two title areas. The bills seek to simplify and enable cross-boundary titles and allow the Commonwealth to facilitate this. I thank the member for Hunter for his comments endorsing this. Upon passage of these bills, the title area will become Commonwealth waters for the purpose of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act. This will put the responsibility of any greenhouse gas titles in the hands of the Commonwealth, meaning a simpler process when seeking to begin a project, such as CarbonNet or another resource project.
Greenhouse gas storage, also known as carbon capture and storage, is the process of capturing carbon dioxide from industrial processes and then transporting and injecting that CO2 into a secure geological formation for long-term underground storage. This is about carbon abatement. This prevents large amounts of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere. This aids in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change. Currently there are four active greenhouse gas assessment permits in Commonwealth offshore waters. All four permits are located in Victorian offshore waters.
The CarbonNet project is related to another project—the Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain project. This project in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria is described as a world-first trial to demonstrate hydrogen production from brown coal and the safe and efficient transport of liquefied hydrogen to Japan. Hydrogen has many potential uses, including heating buildings and powering vehicles. Many countries, including Australia, are investing in and supporting hydrogen due to its potential for decarbonising our energy systems. Hydrogen can be produced in a number of ways. Clean or green hydrogen is produced using renewable energy or by using carbon capture and storage.
The Morrison government has released the National Hydrogen Strategy. This will help to unleash the opportunities of clean hydrogen exports. Investment in hydrogen will be even more cost-effective if, as expected, gas infrastructure can be modified for hydrogen usage in the future. In fact, town gas is the old form of hydrogen and gas together and it used the same infrastructure. Grasping early potential trade opportunities with both hands, Australia has already signed the Joint Statement on Cooperation on Hydrogen and Fuel Cells during the recent Australia-Japan Ministerial Economic Dialogue in Melbourne in January this year.
The National Offshore Petroleum Safety Environmental Management Authority advises that there have been two greenhouse gas acreage release rounds by the Australian government for offshore greenhouse gas storage exploration—one in 2009 and the other in 2014. Currently there are four active greenhouse gas assessment permits in Commonwealth offshore waters. The four Victorian permits are related to the CarbonNet project. The network would involve multiple carbon capture storage projects transporting CO2 via a shared pipeline and injecting it underground. The amendments relating to the creation and administration of cross-boundary greenhouse gas titles will enable projects like the CarbonNet project to proceed with its proposed site in the Gippsland Basin, in offshore Victoria. The project could also facilitate a future commercial-scale hydrogen energy supply chain project, which will produce hydrogen from brown coal resources. This is investment in new technology to help us to get to a carbon-neutral future.
The second half of this bill will also strengthen and clarify the monitoring, inspection and enforcement powers of the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority so that, during any oil pollution emergency that originates in Commonwealth waters, things can happen quickly. It's so incredibly important to make sure that the authority can enter or inspect the site of any pollution emergency without a warrant. This will seek to mitigate time wasted obtaining a warrant in the event of an oil spill emergency and allow clean-up to begin very quickly. During an offshore incident, inspectors need access to real-time information, including monitoring of enforcing compliance across premises, and the ability to take enforcement action in the event of noncompliance.
In conclusion, this bill supports the Morrison government's ongoing commitment to the maintenance and continuous improvement of a strong and effective regulatory framework for offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage but also the government's continued commitment to exploring and enabling ways to lower emissions. It is worth keeping an open mind when it comes to developing opportunities for future energy generation and storage. After all, this space is moving rapidly, and we wouldn't want to miss any opportunity to lead the energy technology revolution in the world's bid for a carbon-neutral future.