Santos: countdown to gas boom begins

THE countdown is on until Queensland's coal seam gas boom becomes reality, the Santos chief believes.

Chief executive David Knox yesterday announced the processing hubs near Roma were operational, and the 420km pipeline to Gladstone was filled with methane.

Mr Knox said as soon as the company's Curtis Island processing plant was operational Santos would be ready to export.

"Very clearly this is a hugely important step to ensure we deliver our first cargo in 2015," he said.

"Now I think you can be very confident we're well on the way.

"When you combine that with the fact we've now gassed up our pipeline that's another very significant milestone.

"The construction phase's end will mean jobs will go, although more than 500 Santos employees will remain on the project."

Santos Queensland vice-president Trevor Brown said planning had been done about the workforce reduction.

"That's a normal and entirely predictable part of the project," he said.

"The investment will not stop, the benefits will not stop.

"For the next five years we'll be spending an estimated $1 billion per year on continued development and following that about $500 million a year.

"It's revitalising the community, it's revitalising the region."

Maranoa Mayor Rob Loughnan said Roma had planned for the construction phase's end and managed to avoid overexpanding during construction.

"The production phase will be a lot more stable for Roma," he said.

"I see coal seam gas being here for fifty years.

"Agriculture will always be our lynchpin, but CSG will be important too.

"I can see a time when Roma is a hub for CSG.

"Not just nearby but for future operations further out towards the Cooper Basin."

Mr Knox said while at full capacity, Santos would be able to meet the full demand for gas on Australia's east coast.

But the gas would not be used domestically with 20-year export contracts to Malaysia and Korea already signed.

Anti-CSG group Lock the Gate did not return requests for comment on the project's progress yesterday.