THE PLANNED Narrabri Gas Project is set to supply a proposed ammonium nitrate plant near Narrabri in north west New South Wales which will see Perdaman Industries enter eastern Australia’s fertiliser market.
Earlier this month Santos and Perdaman announced a non-binding agreement for the supply of 14.5 petajoules of natural gas per annum over 20 years to the proposed plant, the first of its kind for inland Australia, which looks set to provide competition in the nitrogen-fertiliser market.
“The cheapest gas for manufacturing projects like ours is always going to be available close to the supply source so you don’t have to pay for long-distance transport and unnecessary processing,” Perdaman Group’s founding chairman and managing director Vikas Rambal said.
“We will bring new competition, which is always good for prices, to the fertiliser market in NSW and that will be good for farmers in the region.”
Proposed new field
Through the Narrabri Gas Project, Santos has sought approval to drill up to 850 natural gas wells on no more than 425 sites over the 95,000-hectare project area, most of it in the Pilliga State Forest.
The Perdaman plant will use appraisal and early development gas produced by the project, but an expected start date has not been released by the company.
Both the Narrabri Gas Project and the Perdaman plant are expected to use a combination of gas-fired and renewable power.
The plant is expected to support 700 jobs during construction and another 100 direct and 100 indirect ongoing jobs during operations.
Perdaman was founded in India, and is headquartered in Perth.
It has plans for a urea plant at Karratha in Western Australia which is expected to make Perdaman a supplier of fertiliser to the WA market.
Santos managing director and chief executive officer Kevin Gallagher said Santos planned to develop the Narrabri Gas Project solely for the east-coast domestic gas market, and it could produce enough gas to supply up to half NSW’s needs.
The project is currently being assessed by the NSW Department of Planning ahead of a decision by the Independent Planning Commission.
Narrabri is in the Namoi Valley of north-west NSW, and it is believed the Perdaman plant will be located near the town and adjacent to the Inland Rail line which will enable its output to be distributed along the proposed Brisbane-Melbourne route.
Cotton Grower Services consultant Rob Dugdale said whatever form the plant produced fertiliser in would be welcomed by this important cotton and grain-growing area.
“It doesn’t matter whether it produces solids or liquid nitrogen, it will be well received,” Mr Dugdale said.
“If the factory is potentially near the source, and near the market, its attractiveness will be a reduction in transport costs to local growers.
“With the potential development of Inland Rail and a hub in Narrabri, it will be able to go up into Queensland and down to areas like Parkes and Forbes.”
Sources have said the Perdaman plant will be able to produce more than 300,000 tonnes of fertiliser per annum.
AMPS Agribusiness Moree-based agronomist Tony Lockrey said some cotton growers were using up to one tonne per hectare of urea to grow 16 bales/ha of cotton, and local production of nitrogen fertiliser would be a welcome development.
“It’s an exciting concept to have home-grown fertiliser.”
Narrabri Chamber of Commerce chair Russell Stewart said Narrabri was one of the regions “doing it tough” because of the drought, but was fortunate to have services, agricultural research and coal-mining as other pillars of its economy.
He said the proposed Narrabri Gas Project and Perdaman plant were welcome developments in the current environment.
“If we’ve got the gas here, we’re making the fertiliser here and we’re putting in the ground here, that’s a hat trick.
“Having it cheap in Narrabri will make it cheap everywhere.”
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