Northern Rivers looms as Coal Seam Gas battleground

COAL seam gas wells could dot the Northern Rivers landscape by Christmas if Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane has his way.

Farmers, gas producers and other stakeholders will be invited to join the outspoken minister in committee in an urgent bid to solve what he has dubbed the "NSW gas challenge".

Mr Macfarlane's words came outside yesterday's "energy security summit" which saw industry heads and policy makers attempting to nut out a solution to the state's imminent gas supply problem - predicted to set in from 2015.

Earlier CSG activists and farmers were removed from the invitation-only summit after staging a protest.

Resources Minister Chris Hartcher said the "the viability and affordability of coal and gas needs to be considered a short-, medium- and long-term priority for the state."

He said cheap and abundant energy had been taken for granted until now, but different sectors were facing "an inability to secure a reliable and affordable energy supply".

Mr Hartcher, however, defended the state government's environmental restrictions on the industry, refusing to blame them for the slow pace of CSG development.

Greens NSW spokesman on mining Jeremy Buckingham labelled predictions of a gas shortage a "phantom gas crisis" spurred by the push to export LNG to Asia.

Mr Buckingham called for an "domestic gas reservation policy", which would quarantine a portion of gas for domestic use.

In its 2013 annual report released yesterday, Metgasco restated plans to resume its Northern NSW operations.

The company said it intended to resume exploration "once there is evidence of clear and sensible regulatory settings and a positive investment climate".

The company also downgraded its proven and probable gas reserves by 21%.

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