Speaking Monday at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association conference in Adelaide, Ferguson pointed to a Deloitte report commissioned by the association that says Australia's combined identified gas resources, excluding shale natural gas, are about 392 trillion cubic feet.
That's about 184 years worth of gas at current production rates, the minister said.
Liquefied natural gas exports in 2010-11 totaled 20 million tons, for a value of $10.3 billion, he said, making Australia the third largest exporter in the Asia-Pacific region and the fourth largest in the world.
For 2012-13 the country's exports are projected to grow a further 19 percent to be boosted by Woodside Petroleum's new Pluto LNG project in Western Australia.
Based on proposed and committed new projects, the minister said, Australia's LNG production capacity is projected to quadruple, "potentially making Australia the world's largest producer of LNG."
APPEA says $89.8 billion of LNG projects have been approved in the country over the last year, bringing to $169 billion the value of the seven LNG developments under construction.
It estimates that a further $329 billion could likely be invested in Australia's oil and gas sector through 2020.
"While global economic uncertainty remains a threat to ongoing investment, our trading partners continue to show confidence in Australia's capacity to meet their energy demands," Ferguson said.
But the report warns that rapid growth of Australia's oil and gas sector poses challenges for industry and government alike, including a rising Australian dollar that has resulted in increased development costs.
David Knox, chief executive of Australian oil and gas producer Santos and chairman of the APPEA in his speech Monday to the group called on the Australian government to remove regulatory uncertainty or risk losing up to $329 billion in future investments, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Noting that the LNG sector is characterized by contracts that are typically decades long, he said success in project delivery was fragile and ''delays and uncertainty at this time risks seeing other projects leapfrog Australian projects."
In advance of the conference, APPEA Chief Executive Officer David Byers told Adelaide Now newspaper that South Australia's next big growth area after oil and conventional gas may lie in shale gas.
Byers cited a 2011 U.S. Energy Department report last year that estimates a total of 396 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas in the Cooper Basin, an amount he said would be enough to power Adelaide for 6,600 years.
South Australia, he said, "is clearly set to play a major role in Australia's emergence as a global energy superpower."
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