The joint venture partners in the Waitsia onshore gas field have received the environmental green light for their $768 million project in the Perth Basin 16km east of Dongara. The approval by WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson follows a December decision by Japanese proponent Mitsui and partner Beach Energy to go ahead with the development, The partners each own 50 per cent of the project, which is regarded as one of the biggest onshore gas fields in Australia. The so-called Stage 2 expansion will transform Waitsia from a trial project with a capacity for 20 terajoules of gas a day to a 250TJ/day operation with an expected life of 20 years. Additional wells will be drilled and a gas plant built, with first gas expected in the second half of 2023. About 200 jobs are expected to be created, with an operational workforce of 12-15 and 20-30 support personnel based in Perth. The Stage 2 development will send about half of Waitsia’s reserves north to the Karratha Gas Plant as backfill for the depleting North West Shelf project to be exported as LNG, while the remaining gas will enter the WA domestic market through the Dampier-to-Bunbury gas pipeline. The decision will transform the Adelaide-based Beach into an exporter of LNG for the first time after the State Government announced in August it would grant Waitsia an exemption from a ban on exporting onshore gas. The ban was introduced to ensure WA had adequate supplies of gas in future. However, an exception was made for Waitsia to send about half of its gas until 2028 to the Karratha Gas Plant for processing to be exported as LNG. Premier Mark McGowan defended the exemption at the time, noting the project was shovel-ready and that at least half the Waitsia gas would be retained for domestic supply. The Minister’s approval is subject to conditions including management plans for flora and vegetation, water, greenhouse gases, flaring and heritage. The WA Conservation Council and the Lock the Gate Alliance were critical of the decision, made just days before the Government’s caretaker mode begins on Wednesday. WA entrepreneur Kerry Stokes holds a 28.5 per cent stake in Beach through Seven Group Holdings. Mr Stokes is chairman of Seven West Media, publisher of The West Australian, thewest.com.au and owner of the Seven Network.