DARWIN, AAP – Oil and gas production in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin could help Australia meet its energy needs and provide export income, a Senate inquiry has been told.

The basin is one of five gas fields the federal government plans to develop to support exports and manufacturing, under its “gas-led recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic.

It has caused concern among many Territorians, who fear it would not only jeopardise efforts to meet the nations’s emissions reduction target but also contaminate groundwater.

Andrew McConville, Australian Petroleum Exploration and Production Association chief executive, says the Beetaloo Basion has the potential to supply domestic gas needs and export markets.

“This is both an export and domestic opportunity,” he told the first environment and communications committee hearing on the issue in Darwin on Tuesday.

Mr McConville said 30 per cent of gas produced in Australia was used for electricity generation and 70 per cent to manufacture everyday goods.

“The simple reality is that those products do not have a substitute,” he said.

Cattleman Rohan Sullivan told the committee he had been dealing with a gas exploration company in the NT for about a decade, saying it had helped build gates and roads that the government had not been able.

In a testy exchange with Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe, Mr Sullivan said when asked why he had not acknowledged traditional owners at the start of his submission that he preferred to let his actions take precedence over words.

He said he was one of the few pastoralists who had employed Aboriginal workers since he bought the lease for the 76,000 hectare Birdum Creek Station in the basin.

The Northern Land Council, the Lock the Gate Alliance and GetUp! are also scheduled to present evidence to the hearing.