AGL has been given state government approval to build a $310 million gas storage facility at Tomago.
Opponents of the project including the NSW opposition say its location within the Tomago sandbeds water catchment means it poses a risk to the Hunter’s water supply.
But a NSW Planning Assessment Commission panel has approved the project, saying it did not involve any coal seam gas exploration or production and that any gas leaks would disperse to the atmosphere, and not into the sandbeds.
AGL will have to find 45 Earp’s gums to replace the 15 to be cut down to build the plant, but the commission noted the company had bought two offset areas totalling 113 hectares and was working on conservation agreements for them.
It will also have to ‘‘translocate’’ any koalas or New Holland mice found on the site.
AGL upstream gas group general manager Mike Moraza said the storage facility had appropriate hazard management plans.
AGL still needs federal approval for the project from Environment Minister Tony Burke, who is expected to reveal his decision in about two months’ time.
The Tomago plant is proposed for land off Old Punt Road, north of the Tomago Aluminium smelter and about three kilometres south of Heatherbrae.
AGL fact sheets say the $310 million facility would take 300 people to build and 15 people to operate.
Capable of processing 66,500 tonnes a year of liquid natural gas, the Tomago plant could store about two weeks’ worth of gas for Newcastle.
A similar facility was operating at Dandenong in Victoria.
The Tomago plant would refrigerate incoming gas to a temperature of minus 162 degrees.
It would store the cooled gas as a liquid, before warming it again for transmission as gas.
The project cost included a new pipeline to connect the plant to the existing network at Hexham.
NSW Department of Planning files show AGL applied for approval in September 2010.
The application was sent by ‘‘ministerial delegation’’ to the planning commission in September 2011.
The commission received an environmental assessment in April and was satisfied the recommended conditions would adequately protect and manage the impacts associated with the proposal.