Oil and gas concerns
Wednesday, 10th March, 2021
By Myles Burt
State government consultations over opening up the Far West to oil and gas exploration have left graziers concerned and anxious.
The NSW Government in November 2020 announced that it would consider options to expand domestic gas production in their Strategic Opportunities for Gas in Regional NSW statement.
An assessment undertaken by the Geological Survey of NSW has identified moderate to high potential for gas resources in the four areas being considered being the Bancannia Trough, Pondie Range Trough, Neckarboo Trough and Yathong Ivanhoe Trough.
As a part of the assessment, NSW DPIE has been seeking consultation with a range of stakeholders including councils, pastoralists and indigenous groups.
However, consultations have already got off to a rocky start as community members and pastoralists where required to register for a consultation meeting within a one week deadline.
Barwon MP Roy Butler said letters to inform pastoralists of the consultation meeting weren’t even going to be delivered in time to meet the deadline, with most people in the areas of interest getting their mail delivered every two to three weeks.
“We still have people in the area who have not seen a letter, some have received a letter since but there’s still people who haven’t had the chance to have their say,” Mr Butler said.
Mr Butler feels the consultation issue isn’t an isolated event to these gas exploration consultations, but a general pattern with NSW Government consultations as a whole.
Mr Butler said he’d like to see some standards and structured approaches to how the NSW Government consults with regional communities.
“Consultations should be meaningful, they should be genuine you know, it shouldn’t be a tick a box exercise,” Mr Butler said.
“It does nothing to build trust when people look at it and say ‘well if they were genuine about consulting they would take a very different process’.
“They’d be out on the ground, talking to people, not just sending them a letter that they may or may not get.”
Mr Butler said he has no opposition to conventional gas and could be a potentially good industry as long as everything stacks up to show it’s safe and doesn’t in any way impact ground water sources.
“If there was any risk being placed to ground water for anything, because of the importance of ground water, I just can’t support it,” Mr Butler said.
“Because we’ve just been through the worst drought in living memory.
“If that wasn’t enough to show us how important ground water, is I don’t know what would convince people.”
Pastoralist Association of West Darling’s Lachlan Gall said it was fair to say most graziers in the Far West are concerned about the potential for gas exploration and production on their properties.
Mr Gall, who’s Coogee Lake Station Property has had exploration wells sunk back in 1969, said the chances of finding an economic oil and gas yield in the Far West is very low.
As previous exploration in the 1960’s failed to find any significant results with only 12 wells sunk in total.
“The chances of gas production from any one location in Far West NSW is highly unlikely,” Mr Gall said.
“It’s the results that have been turned up by previous exploration that downgrade these area’s prospectively for gas discoveries.”
Mr Gall who advocated for a deadline extension for the NSW DPIE consultation meeting said that the overall process was lacking as information provided was basic and not detailed enough to provide a clear picture to the people who received the letters.
Mr Gall said the letters were so basic that they didn’t outline the difference between conventional gas, tight gas and coal seam gas.
Mr Gall said this has lead landholders to compare potential gas production in the Far West to the negative impacts of gas production that have been experienced in Eastern Australia.
“Fortunately for Western NSW the negative impacts from coal seam gas production don’t apply to potential production of gas in Western NSW,” Mr Gall said.
“For the average pastoralist, they haven’t been made aware about the differences.
“But the Department have done what they’ve done, the horse has bolted so as a result the Department is on the back foot in terms of this consultation process.
“They’ve got some significant work to do in terms of informing people about the process of what the government is going through, and the timeframe associated with that.”
Whilst negative impacts of gas production in the Far West are highly unlikely.
Mr Gall said the risks oil and gas exploration companies would be taking at exploring the Far West are way too high.
Mr Gall said as each exploration well costs millions of dollars to drill, funding a well that will most likely come up dry would be a company killer.
“I can’t imagine there to be a great rush from exploration companies to come out and drill for gas in Western NSW,” Mr Gall said.
“Because it’s highly likely that any exploration drill hole would be unsuccessful.
“The cost of that unsuccessful drilling can cripple a company.”
Mr Gall said his main concern on gas exploration and production possibly would be whether livestock production would be affected if the industry were to somehow to take hold in the Far West.