Chief Minister Terry Mills will travel to Europe next week to discuss the future of the Gove alumina refinery with executives of mining giant Rio Tinto.
Mr Mills has returned from Perth where he met with energy company representatives as part of his preparation for the trip.
He says he is aiming to achieve an agreement to provide gas to Rio Tinto's Pacific Aluminium refinery without jeopardising the Northern Territory's own domestic gas supply, sourced from Italian company Eni.
Eni pipes gas from the Blackfield field in the Bonaparte Basin of the Timor Sea, about 110 kilometres from the northern Australian Coast, to Wadeye, west of Darwin.
It is used by the Territory's major utilities body, Power and Water Corporation, to produce electricity.
Most existing and now developing gas production in the Territory is pre-sold to overseas customers without provision for domestic needs.
In Western Australia, there is a requirement that at least 15 per cent of gas drawn must be reserved for domestic use.
Mr Mills says an aggregated gas supply must be found for the Territory.
"But I cannot and will not risk taking actions that result in upward pressure on Territory power prices," he said.
Analysts say that Pacific Aluminium is losing about $30 million a month in operating the Gove refinery.
This is because the market price of alumina is down, and the refinery is powered by expensive diesel fuel.
Rio Tinto wants two switch to gas power, with the Territory helping to secure a gas supply and the Commonwealth underwriting the cost of a $900 million pipeline.
The Chief Minister says his talks in Perth revealed an emerging issue of international demands competing against domestic market requirements.
"A response to this must form the basis of our national energy policy, and I intend to have this matter remain on the COAG agenda," he said.
"This is not just a Territory issue but an issue of national significance." Mr Mills will first travel to Canberra for talks before his departure for Europe.
He says finding a supply of gas for Gove is just part of his mission.
"We need to start thinking more broadly," he said.
"It is not just about Gove; this is about linking up our pipelines in the Territory to the Cooper Basin (in WA) or to others.
"Once we set that framework, we've got the room to move to expand the domestic market and provide not only Territory security but national security." If the Gove refinery were to close, the nearby town of Nhulunbuy is expected to lose more than than half of its population of about 4,000 people.