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SunRice sees benefit in connecting to gas pipeline

Deniliquin's SunRice has thrown their support behind a natural gas connection to the town.

ZOE MCMAUGH January 7, 2014 4:56am

SunRice has said a natural gas connection would be ‘‘of interest to us’’, enhancing the likelihood of a connection being extended to Deniliquin.

SunRice chairman Gerry Lawson said the company supported Deniliquin Council in its push to get a pipeline to Deniliquin, saying access to natural gas would deliver a ‘‘significant cost saving’’ for the leading food company.

Deniliquin Mayor Lindsay Renwick said the support can only help with attempts to have the NSW or Federal Government, who want proof of demand, fund the project.

Deniliquin Council has been fighting for a natural gas connection for more than a decade.

The fight became more vigorous after local state forests were converted to national parks in 2010, limiting access to firewood.

Cr Renwick maintains that because the limited access was created by the government, it should be responsible for providing a suitable heating alternative.

With the NSW Government’s Home Heating Taskforce recommending a natural gas connection and Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley actively seeking funding for such a project, Cr Renwick said SunRice’s support has come at an opportune time.

‘‘There has always been an argument (from both NSW and federal governments) that there was no demand – now we have some support,’’ Cr Renwick said.

‘‘I’m pleased that such a big company, who will surely need a natural gas connection, is behind our push.

‘‘The proposed ethanol plant, which is still waiting for a big tick from the NSW Government, would also need natural gas to remain viable.

‘‘The government can no longer say there is no demand.’’

As well as Deniliquin’s rice mill and Australian Grain Storage operations and the ethanol plant, the Pastoral Times also believes the soon to be re-opened Deniliquin Abattoir would also benefit from a natural gas connection.

Mr Lawson’s support of the natural gas connection is the first public announcement of support from SunRice.

He said the operational and cost saving benefits to the Deniliquin operations, if it was to be connected to natural gas, would be undeniable.

‘‘Natural gas would certainly be of interest to us – it is a compelling source of energy,’’ he said.

‘‘It will provide significant cost savings, and also enable you to do other things.

‘‘The opportunities would be significant if we could have access to affordable natural gas.’’

Mr Lawson said one area where natural gas would provide benefits is in the rice drying facilities.

‘‘We dry all the rice – some by natural air and others through gas cylinders which have to be trucked in.

‘‘Natural gas would certainly make this process more efficient.’’

SunRice confirmed about 75,000 tonnes of paddy rice is dried at the Deniliquin mill each year during harvest, and that driers are powered by LPG trucked onto site.

It said while annual usage varies due to seasonal variations in the industry, the switch from LPG to natural gas would deliver a definite cost benefit.

Last month, Ms Ley revealed pending Murray-Darling Basin Plan compensation money could be used to fund the natural gas project.

She said when the NSW Government signs the basin plan agreement, it will be given a third of the $100 million Murray-Darling Basin Regional Economic Diversification Program funding.

She is personally campaigning for the funding to be used to link the gas connections at Finley and Moama, running through Deniliquin and Mathoura.

The Victorian Government has allocated its share of the diversification fund to connecting natural gas to Murray River communities, which Ms Ley and Cr Renwick said could be linked with the NSW project.

Cr Renwick said the hurdle now, however, is tackling perceived capacity issues.

‘‘Now the government is saying they don’t have enough supply to get from Finley to Deniliquin, which has something to do with the size of the pipes,’’ Cr Renwick said.

‘‘I’ve been saying that a connection from Finley to Deniliquin, at least, would provide enough gas for most of us (in Deniliquin).

‘‘We have to beef up the line, and from what I understand the Victorian project will address that issue.

‘‘This is a good chance for the NSW and Victorian Governments to work with the Federal Government on this project.

‘‘I’m sure when governments get back in full mode this week it will be one of the first tasks – it is certainly the first thing to be discussed by Deniliquin Council.’’

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