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Australia hauls in gas majors to boost local supply, cap prices

By Sonali Paul

SYDNEY, March 15 (Reuters) - Australia's top gas producers, led by ExxonMobil Corp and Royal Dutch Shell, are set to come under fire to supply more gas to the local market and curb soaring prices in crisis talks on Wednesday with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The meeting comes days after Australia's energy market operator warned the country faces a gas crunch from 2019 that could trigger supply cuts to industry or power outages for lack of gas for generation.

This is happening even as the country is on track to become the world's top exporter of liquefied natural gas.

"What I'm seeking to do is to ensure we have action from the gas companies," Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

"I can say that the gas companies, I have no doubt, are very well aware they operate with the benefit of a social licence from the Australian people. And they cannot expect to maintain that if, while billions of dollars of gas are being exported, Australians are left short."

Manufacturers who need gas have long complained they faced tight supplies and soaring prices as producers have been focused on supplying gas to the LNG plants that have locked in 20-year export contracts.

(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by James Dalgleish)