The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) has welcomed a scientific inquiry into hydraulic fracturing report finding that hydraulic fracturing could be safely managed in the Northern Territory (NT).

The peak Australian oil and gas body said the report, which had resulted in a similar conclusion to the draft report that any risk associated with onshore gas development and hydraulic fracturing in the NT could be managed by effective regulation, should encourage the government to immediately lift the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in the state.

Matthew Doman, APPEA’s director for South Australia and the Northern Territory, said the conclusion of the 15-month inquiry meant the NT government must make a decision swiftly to “give certainty to investors, local businesses, traditional owners, landholders and all Territorians.”

“The final report confirms that developing the Territory’s natural gas resources would have significant economic and employment benefits for the NT,” Doman said. “It has debunked many of the myths spread by activists opposed to onshore gas development.”

While APPEA argued against the need for yet another inquiry into hydraulic fracturing, the inquiry has enabled genuine questions in the community to be addressed in an independent and expert manner, according to Doman.

APPEA said the conclusion reached in the report confirmed the findings of numerous other scientific inquiries and reviews that any risks associated with hydraulic fracturing can be minimized or eliminated with proper regulation.

“The report makes 135 recommendations, which will need to be considered carefully,” Doman said.

“Some of these recommendations go beyond the terms of reference to matters of national policy and would be impossible for the NT Government to implement, as the report itself acknowledges. APPEA’s member companies stand ready to invest billions of dollars in new projects in the Territory if the industry is allowed to resume exploration activity,” he continued.

“There is no reason the Territory cannot manage the safe, sustainable development of its considerable natural gas resources.”

Last year, Santos Chief Executive Kevin Gallagher’s called on Australia to take its cue from the U.S. by lifting onshore exploration and development bans in Victoria and New South Wales and the hydraulic fracturing moratorium in the NT.

Gallagher said the NT’s potential gas resource of 260 Tcf was greater than Australia’s entire identified conventional gas resources and big enough to expand the Darwin LNG project and supply the gas famished East Coast.

“To look at the potential benefits of a thriving natural gas industry in the Northern Territory, you don’t have to look further than the U.S.,” Gallagher said.

The Santos boss said gas was boosting the U.S. economy by supplying nearly half of all power capacity in a country where electricity prices had dropped to about 30% of the $100 per megawatt it costs in the Australian state of Victoria and 17% of the $150 charge in South Australia.

In addition, Gallagher said the U.S. had cut energy-related carbon emissions by 21% since 2005, a reduction of 400 million tonnes of emissions every year.

“All of this has been as a result of the U.S. government being pro-gas and pro-development. By contrast what we are experiencing here in Australia has resulted from a series of moratoriums and restrictions to new developments, limiting new supply.”