Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 31 March 1980
Page: 1186

Senator MASON (NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development and Energy. It concerns the New Zealand Government's reported signature today to an agreement with the Mobil oil corporation to produce onethird of New Zealand's motor spirit needs by conversion of natural gas from the Maui field to methanol and then to petrol at the relatively modest capital cost of $NZ500m. Is it a fact that this type of conversion is at present and will be for some years the best established and most economical technology for replacing oil as a motor spirit source? Since the lead time for such refineries is estimated to be two to three years and as the Office of National Assessments has been reported as warning that there are likely to be dislocations of our own imported petrol supplies by 1982, how far has Australia advanced towards introducing the same technology, preferably by using North West Shelf natural gas?

Senator CARRICK - The Government has been keenly interested in the proposed technique of converting Maui natural gas to methanol and then fractionating it to gasolene. It is a process which, if successful, will be of great interest but, fundamentally, it is useful only where there is a very significant supply of natural gas which is not a scarce commodity for use in other ways. One also has to watch out that, in the course of the conversion of natural gas to methanol and through to gasolene, one does not use more energy than is justified by the end product. Whilst I do not want to deprecate such a proposal, I must say that a lot still has to be learnt about it.

The proposal has been considered. I believe that the Australian Gas Light Co. has considered turning some natural gas into methanol as an extender. That, in itself, is an attractive proposal and we will be interested in it. So much were we interested in the proposal in New Zealand that I arranged some weeks ago for several of my senior officers to go to New Zealand to study the process. We will keep in touch with it. Whilst something may look attractive one has to look at what the net gain is in the end and whether hydrocarbon fuel is being used for its best priority use. That is not to say that to convert natural gas to gasolene would be wrong; it may be right. We will be much better informed about the process in the future.

Suggest corrections