Australian gas producer Santos expects demand for gas in the east of the country to triple over the next 10 years.

And the only way to meet this demand is to tap into the region’s resources of coal seam gas (CSG), according to Santos Eastern Australia vice president James Baulderstone.

Speaking at the Australia Gas Conference yesterday, Baulderstone said that Santos had so far invested $1.5bn in CSG exploration and plans to spend a further $500m on more test wells.

He said that currently “there is a lot of noise in the public discussion of coal seam gas” and added “many of the concerns raised are false or exaggerated”.

However he accepted there were valid questions over the impact of CSG on agriculture and water quality and said that while Santos was working to address them, it was being hindered by opponents to test drilling.

“On one hand the anti-CSG lobby, and politicians friendly to their cause, challenge our industry to prove that it can operate safely and sustainably, and on the other hand they are now attempting to stop the very work that is required to establish this fact.”