A timeline has been set for the approval of the Santos Narrabri gas project.

Santos's Narrabri Gas Project already has the backing of the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, which recommended its “approval with strict conditions”. THe plan is to drill 850 coal-seam gas wells across 1,000 hectares south-west of Narrabri.

After three years of consideration, the multi-billion-dollar project has been referred to NSW’s Independent Planning Commission, with Minister Rob Stokes requesting a determination within 12 weeks.

The IPC deliberations will involve a public hearing.

During the assessment so far, over 23,000 submissions have been made to the department.

The earlier approval of the plan said it would “not result in any significant impacts on people or the environment” and claimed “any residual impacts of the project can be reduced to an acceptable level by capping total water extraction to 37.5 gigalitres over the life of the project”.

Still, many farmers in the region say they are concerned about the long-term impacts of coal-seam gas on water supplies.

Concern has also been raised about potential damage to the biodiversity of the nearby Pilliga State Forest and greenhouse gas emissions.