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Nicholas Hynes and Alicia Perera

Inpex commits to a net zero future in the Northern Territory, as it sets its eyes on expanding

Inpex and the NT government have signed an emissions reduction agreement. (Supplied: Inpex)

An energy economics expert says it's "ambitious" to think a net zero agreement between gas giant Inpex and the Northern Territory government will be enough to offset carbon emissions from the company's expanding liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.

Inpex currently export millions of tonnes of LNG from its offshore gas field, through a processing facility at Darwin Harbour.

NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles travelled to Tokyo this week to sign the agreement, with the two parties making a non-binding "commitment to a net zero emissions future", while also committing to an increase in LNG production, and an expansion of Inpex's processing plant in 2030.

The two parties spruiked plans for a new carbon capture and storage hub, set to be built near the company's LNG plant, which has also underpinned plans to offset emissions from fracking in the Beetaloo Basin.

NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles signed the agreement with Inpex while in Tokyo. (Supplied: INPEX)

Acting Chief Minister Nicole Manison said Inpex was "deeply committed" to reducing carbon emissions.

"They know that it is expected from their shareholders, it is expected from governments, and it is an expected way to go about business," she said.

"Inpex [is] at the forefront of some very exciting carbon capture and storage technology, working in partnership with Santos and the CSIRO, and they're looking to develop that here going out of Darwin at Middle Arm."

Carbon storage technology questioned

The Environment Centre NT's Naish Gawen labelled Inpex's plan to offset emissions through carbon capture and storage as a "smokescreen", saying the technology had not been proven to work at scale anywhere in Australia.

"There's absolutely no indication in this agreement that Inpex are going to be held accountable for these emissions, produced by the fossil fuel companies in the NT," he said.

A shipment of condensate departing from the project's massive offshore floating production, storage and offloading facility. (Supplied: Inpex Australia)

"The sad reality is that it looks like it's going to be the taxpayer yet again that foots the bill for these offsets and for subsidising the gas industry, unless the NT [government] comes out and actually implements some binding and enforceable requirements on gas companies."

Ms Manison said carbon capture and storage had been successfully used in the Northern Hemisphere.

Mining and Industry Minister Nicole Manison says carbon capture and storage is a "proven" technology. (ABC News: Samantha Jonscher)

"I think people see it as a new technology in Australia, but it's well and truly proven," she said.

"If we are to tackle climate change globally, and reduce emissions, we have to use carbon capture and storage."

Associate Professor Liam Wagner from the University of Adelaide said it would be at least a decade before carbon capture and storage technology would be viable and said there was "not really" much value in a non-binding agreement.

"I think that the prospect that carbon capture and storage could make a significant dent in emissions for this type of project right now is quite ambitious, and I think that it would require significant technological improvement and cost reduction before it could be viable," he said.

Assoc Prof Wagner said investing in expensive carbon capture and storage technology might be viable while LNG prices are high during the current energy crisis, but he said expanding gas projects may not be economically sustainable long-term.

"The future may hold a very different perspective for prices," he said.

"Should significant supply come on board to relieve this current crisis that we have at the moment I think that carbon capture and storage would then be very uncompetitive.

"So I think it's highly contingent on very high gas prices to be viable."

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