The industry body representing Australia’s oil and gas industry has welcomed new regulations that will allow the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) to provide support to non-renewable projects.

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Historically, Arena has only been allowed to fund renewables projects, but the federal government introduced new regulations on Wednesday to expand the remit of the agency to include a wider range of clean energy technologies.

This will give Arena the power to provide financial support to both renewable and non-renewable low-emission technologies, including carbon capture and storage (CCS) and hydrogen.

Oil and gas 'in the driver's seat'

The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) said the changes to the Arena Act would help the nation reach net zero emission targets and placed oil and gas “in the driver's seat”.

“Just as government investment in renewables has fast tracked projects, this will do the same and create thousands of jobs in the process,” APPEA chief executive Andrew McConville said.

“The global oil and gas industry is leading the world in the practical deployment of this technology. In Australia, the oil and gas industry has been at the leading edge of researching and deploying CCS and greenhouse gas storage technologies.”

McConville claimed that natural gas was “a pathway to a large-scale hydrogen industry”, while adding Australia’s liquefied natural gas export success meant the industry already had the technology, expertise, commercial and trade relationships to make hydrogen exports a reality.

“Developing a local hydrogen industry could enable lower emissions both in Australia and internationally, reduce energy costs, deliver energy security, together with new employment and manufacturing opportunities,” he added.

CCS player welcomes changes

Australian CCS player, CO2CRC, also welcomed the changes to the Arena Act, stating it would help encourage the development, application and scaling up of technologies to help reduce CO2 emissions.

“The new regulations follow through on an earlier commitment by the Morrison Government to position Arena to take a key role in driving down the cost of deploying the priority low-emission technologies identified in the Annual Low Emissions Technology Statements (LETS),” CO2CRC chief executive David Byers said.

“This includes clean hydrogen (hydrogen whether produced using renewable energy or fossil fuels combined with carbon capture and storage) and carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS).”

Byers also echoed McConville’s comments in claiming that producing hydrogen from fossil fuels paired with CCS was “the most cost-effective, reliable and flexible” pathway to creating large-scale hydrogen production.

“With around two-thirds of emissions in Australia coming from outside the power generation sector, technologies like CCUS with broad application across the economy, are vital to achieving long-term emissions reduction goals while maintaining Australia’s economic resilience,” he said.