A somewhat distressing episode in Australia’s democracy, which saw the alleged misuse of ministerial powers, is poised to be corrected.

We are talking about former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s alleged decision on March 2022 to use his secretly acquired Resources Ministry powers to cancel PEP 11 in the Sydney Basin offshore New South Wales, which was held by Asset Energy – a wholly-owned subsidiary of BPH investee Advent Energy.

The revelation that Morrison had secretly acquired the powers led Asset to file in August 2022 an application review of the decision, alleging that he had “predetermined the application and the purported decision was infected by actual bias”.

It specifically refers to the Commonwealth-New South Wales Offshore Petroleum Joint Authority refusal of the company’s application for a variation and suspension of the conditions to which PEP 11 is subject and also made a related decision to refuse an extension of the term.

This potentially deplorable situation now looks set to end with both the Albanese Labor Government and Asset filing proposed consent orders to end the ongoing litigation.

Should the Federal Court of Australia agree to the consent orders, the Joint Authority would then be required to reconsider Asset’s applications.

Big gas resource

While PEP 11 has seen its share of criticism, including open opposition from former Wentworth Federal MP Dave Sharma and green groups opposed to the development of new oil and gas projects, there’s a good reason why Asset – and all the companies associated with it – are keen to renew the permit.

PEP 11 has previously been estimated to host a best estimate prospective resource of up to 5 trillion cubic feet of gas.

While prospective resources represent just potentially recoverable hydrocarbons, they still provide a good idea of what could be present if further exploration – especially drilling – is successful.

For the uninitiated, 5Tcf is a pretty significant amount of gas and more than enough to fuel a standalone development.

New South Wales needs about 400 terajoules of gas per day to meet its requirements, meaning that a 5Tcf resource (about 5,000 petajoules) could fuel the state for about 34 years.

Of course, it isn’t likely that a development at PEP 11 will pump out the full 400TJ/d that the state needs, but it certainly could be capable of filling a substantial amount of its demand (or the east coast for that matter).

Energy security

Proving up and developing PEP 11 would also go some way towards ensuring Australia’s energy security, which given the current geopolitical tensions in the world isn’t a hard point to make.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute clearly believes that energy security is important, calling for Australia to boost investment to ensure strategic fuel security.

And while the think tank clearly has fuels such as petrol and diesel on its mind, its warning is nonetheless relevant for gas supplies as well.

No matter that the use of renewables and storage is accelerating, it will still be many years before the green duo can reasonably be expected to replace fossil fuels, meaning that gas will still play a key role in the energy mix for some time to come – certainly enough that a closer look at PEP 11 is warranted.