COOPER Energy has received a $55 million commitment to support increased and new gas supply for south-east Australia.

Japanese powerhouse Mitsui Group and Cooper will invest $37 million to upgrade the plant and have spent $17.8 million purchasing the plant and on front end engineering and design work and care and maintenance.

Cooper Energy managing director, David Maxwell, said this investment decision represents an important milestone in the company’s continuing growth as a safe, competitive, efficient and reliable developer and marketer of new gas supplies for homes and businesses in south-east Australia.

“The infrastructure works at the Minerva Gas Plant will enable the supply of 16 PJ of currently undeveloped gas.”

Mr Maxwell said this is an important commitment to infrastructure investment, local jobs and increased domestic gas supply.

“This is a ‘shovel-ready project’ which will see Cooper Energy and Mitsui Group upgrade the idle Minerva Gas Plant to be a processing hub for local production and discoveries in offshore Otway Basin, Victoria.

“It means local jobs for local contractors which will help deliver reliable gas supplies into the east coast market.

“The investment follows the successful exploration program by Cooper Energy and Mitsui Group resulting in the Annie-1 gas discovery, in the Otway Basin, the first offshore discovery in south-east Australia over seven years.”

Federal Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, welcomed the announcement as a great show of confidence in the industry.

Minister Pitt said the announcement was particularly important given the current global COVID-19 pandemic.

“I congratulate Cooper Energy on making this significant commitment to upgrade the Minerva plant near Port Campbell, Victoria that it jointly holds with the Mitsui Group,” Minister Pitt said.

“Importantly, the investment will support more local jobs and new gas supply for Australia’s south-east.

“It’s an example of how the gas sector is continuing to deliver across Australia and while no sector has been immune to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resources industry continued to be a major contributor to the national economy.

“The industry has gone to great lengths to keep workers and communities safe to remain operating through the current pandemic.

“The Coalition Government strongly backs our mining and resources sector and the announcement from Cooper Energy today should give Australians confidence that the sector will lead the Australia to economic recovery,” Mr Pitt said.

The project will draw gas from four offshore wells (Casino-4, Casino-5, Henry-2, and Netherby-1) into the Minerva plant via a pipeline tie-in and minor modifications. This will improve recovery enabled by lower plant inlet pressure and provide the ability to offer customers firm supply.

The project is expected to create about 30-50 local jobs during execution with 20 ongoing local jobs.

Following the completion and performance testing, first gas is expected within the September quarter 2021 with this expectation incorporating allowances for uncertainty from COVID-19 as it is presently understood.

The Minerva Gas Plant is near Port Campbell, Victoria and has the capacity to process up to 150 TJ/day. It will be renamed as the Athena Gas Plant in recognition of the expansion to its role from a dedicated plant to the now depleted Minerva gas field to a hub for supply from existing offshore Otway gas fields and future discoveries.

Cooper Energy (Operator and 50% interest holder) and Mitsui Group (50% interest) took possession of the Minerva Gas Plant in December 2019 .

Since then the frontend engineering and design (FEED) work has been completed to support the Final Investment Decision to upgrade and connect the plant to process gas produced from the existing Casino, Henry and Netherby fields in the VIC L24/L30 permit areas held by Cooper Energy 50% and Mitsui Group 50%.