Landowners are familiar with laws that tilt the balance of bargaining power in favour of mineral, coal and petroleum tenement holders when they seek agreements with landowners for exploration, mining and infrastructure projects.
To date, the hydrogen industry in Queensland has not seen the same level of government support.
There is currently no dedicated regime that governs the granting of licences or authorities for the construction and operation of pipelines to transport hydrogen. Supporters of the hydrogen industry cite this as a key reason that the industry is yet to reach its full potential in Queensland.
However, the Queensland Government has expressed a desire to put Queensland at the forefront of renewable hydrogen production in Australia by 2030, introducing the draft Gas Supply and Other Legislation (Hydrogen Industry Development) Amendment Bill 2023 (Bill).
The Bill proposes several changes to the Gas Supply Act 2003 (Qld) and the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 (Qld), which are intended to streamline the framework for granting licences for the construction and operation of pipelines for hydrogen and hydrogen gas blends that are intended to be used to produce heat, power or light.
Notably, the Government has proposed changes to the definition of ‘fuel gas’ such that it would also cover relevant forms of hydrogen used to create energy. If passed, those changes would bring hydrogen under the same land access laws that current apply to mineral, coal and petroleum tenement holders.
This would be a considerable shift away from the current situation, where hydrogen pipelines cannot be constructed on private land without an easement or other written agreement being reached to secure tenure.
Landowners are right to be wary of changes that seek to empower proponents of hydrogen projects.
Thynne + Macartney continues to advocate for landowners’ interests and will keep you updated as the Bill progresses.