Origin exits Beetaloo for 'cleaner' energy

·3-min read

Origin Energy has offloaded its stake in the gas-rich Beetaloo Basin to focus on "cleaner" projects, including a big battery on the site of Australia's biggest coal-fired power station.

The gas and electricity company announced on Monday a post-tax loss of up to $90 million on the deal, but retains a share of any future royalties from the Northern Territory project and a 10-year gas supply deal.

Chief executive Frank Calabria told reporters the transaction would allow Origin to allocate capital to strategic priorities "linked to growing cleaner energy" and reliable gas supplies.

Tamboran B1, an entity jointly owned by Tamboran Resources and major shareholder Bryan Sheffield, paid $60 million up-front for the stake.

Protect Country Alliance spokesperson Graeme Sawyer said Origin's decision to abandon fracking in the NT, Queensland's Lake Eyre Basin, and WA's Kimberley region was testament to the grassroots campaign led by Traditional Owners.

"We hope Tamboran, as well as other companies active in the Territory soon come to the same conclusion and pack their bags," he said.

Nurrdalinji Native Title Aboriginal Corporation, which represents Beetaloo Basin native title holders, has been working with NT pastoralists to oppose Tamboran's fracking operations on Rallen's Tanumbirini cattle station.

Johnny Wilson, chair of Nurrdalinji, who lives in Lightning Ridge, within 20 kms of new fracking wells, said Origin's decision was a "big relief" and he hoped it was the start of more companies giving up and getting out.

Peak environment group Environment Centre NT called for the Albanese government to abandon all taxpayer subsidies promised to the "polluting and dying industry".

"That includes the $2 billion earmarked for the deeply unpopular and toxic Middle Arm petrochemicals precinct in Darwin Harbour, which plans to use Beetaloo gas as a feedstock," co-director Kirsty Howey said.

Shares in Origin were down one cent at $5.80 in afternoon trade.

Origin is one of Australia's big three "gentailers" - electricity generators and retailers - alongside AGL Energy and EnergyAustralia, and owns the nation's biggest coal-fired power plant, Eraring, that's due to close in 2025.

A grid-scale battery proposed for the Eraring site at Lake Macquarie in NSW has a potential peak generation output of 700 megawatts, making it one of the largest battery projects in Australia.

"Across our portfolio, as you know, we're transitioning away from Eraring over time, so we'll be growing renewable energy, we'll be growing storage," Mr Calabria said.

At peak output, the battery would meet the energy needs of 150,000 homes for up to four hours and wouldn't need new transmission lines to connect to the national electricity grid.

As a partner in Australia Pacific LNG (APLNG) owned by ConocoPhillips (47.5 per cent), Origin (27.5 per cent) and Sinopec (25 per cent), the company will continue to develop liquefied natural gas.

"We believe gas will continue to play an important role in the energy mix and it remains a core part of our business," Mr Calabria said.

Lock the Gate Alliance spokeswoman Ellen Roberts said it was disappointing that Origin plans to proceed with its APLNG project north of Roma and in Queensland's Central Highlands.

"If Origin was serious about its climate targets and its environmental responsibilities, it would abandon these projects too," she said.

APLNG is the largest producer of LNG in eastern Australia and a major exporter of gas to Asia.