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The Federal Government will provide $30.4 million to assess the Cooper Basin in Queensland and South Australia as a potential source of gas to boost energy supplies, while protecting the country’s natural environment.

The Geological and Bioregional Assessments Program is part of the ‘Towards a New Energy Future’ package in the 2017/2018 Budget.

The program will evaluate selected priority areas that are prospective for shale and tight gas, aiming not only to boost supply to the eastern states’ gas market, but also to support strong regulation of unconventional gas projects.

The independent scientific studies will be conducted by Geoscience Australia and the CSIRO, supported by the Bureau of Meteorology and managed by the Department of the Environment and Energy. The studies will assess the geology, water quantity, and quality of surface and groundwater as well as protected environmental assets to determine the potential impacts and environmental safety of shale and tight gas developments.

Minister for the Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, said governments, industry and local communities must all be assured that Australia can access its plentiful gas resources in a responsible way.

“As we work with states, territories and industry to get more gas to market, it is crucial that our decisions about resources are based on a sound scientific understanding of the region’s geology and environmental values,” Mr Frydenberg said.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, said increasing access to gas supplies will help create Australian jobs and support investment in regional Australia.

“It is vital that we unlock our gas resources and bring more gas to market. By taking steps to unlock our gas reserves, we will help put downward pressure on gas prices,” Mr Canavan said.

“This investment will make use of the best science to map and access our gas supplies to keep Australian industry running.”

Initial work on the Cooper Basin studies is underway. The next priority areas for the Geological and Bioregional Assessments Program will be announced in 2018.

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