NT frack­ing to re­sume


THE North­ern Ter­ri­tory Gov­ern­ment has lifted its mora­to­rium on hy­draulic frack­ing, ac­cept­ing all 135 rec­om­men­da­tions put for­ward by an in­de­pen­dent in­quiry. The 15-month in­quiry, led by NSW Land and En­vi­ron­ment Court judge Jus­tice Rachel Pep­per, con­cluded risks as­so­ci­ated with frack­ing could be man­aged to an ac­cept­able level through ef­fec­tive reg­u­la­tion. The mora­to­rium was in­tro­duced in Septem­ber 2016 as part of the La­bor Gov­ern­ment’s elec­tion com­mit­ment to com­mis­sion a sci­en­tific in­quiry into the mat­ter, which was sub­se­quently com­pleted in March. Fed­eral Re­sources min­is­ter Matt Cana­van said the North­ern Ter­ri­tory’s de­ci­sion to lift the ban will boost in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties and jobs, with ini­tial es­ti­mates in­di­cat­ing the re­gion could be sit­ting on more than 200 years of gas sup­ply. “That huge quan­tity of gas means jobs and in­vest­ment in the North,” Mr Cana­van said. “I con­grat­u­late the North­ern Ter­ri­tory on lift­ing this ban [and] I en­cour­age other States to re­think their own blan­ket bans.” North­ern Ter­ri­tory chief min­is­ter Michael Gun­ner said $5.33 mil­lion will be al­lo­cated over the next three years to im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions, with a de­tailed plan un­der­way that will be re­leased to the pub­lic in July. Mr Gun­ner added that the Gov­ern­ment ac­cepted the in­quiry’s ad­vice on no-go zones (about 49 per cent of the Ter­ri­tory) and that strict new laws and reg­u­la­tions needed to be put in place for the re­main­der of the re­gion to en­sure when frack­ing oc­curs, the Ter­ri­tory is pro­tected. “I want to as­sure all Ter­ri­to­ri­ans that we will faith­fully im­ple­ment all the rec­om­men­da­tions of the re­port and I en­cour­age those who are pas­sion­ate about pro­tect­ing our pre­cious nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment to stay en­gaged through this process of re­form,” Mr Gun­ner said. Aus­tralian Pe­tro­leum Pro­duc­tion and Ex­plo­ration As­so­ci­a­tion (APPEA) NT di­rec­tor Matthew Do­man wel­comed the Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion, but said the time­frame in which the Ter­ri­tory im­ple­mented the rec­om­men­da­tions was “crit­i­cal in de­ter­min­ing the com­mer­cial vi­a­bil­ity of the in­dus­try.” “If they are to be im­ple­mented, they must be ad­dressed within the next six months to en­sure the in­dus­try can be on the ground ex­plor­ing in the 2019 dry sea­son,” Mr Do­man said. “Ex­plor­ers are ready to re­sume their ac­tiv­i­ties as soon as the Gov­ern­ment gives the green light.” Oil and gas ex­plorer Blue En­ergy said it was un­likely any mean­ing­ful ex­plo­ration ac­tiv­ity could be un­der­taken in the NT be­fore the 2019 dry sea­son. “How­ever, it would ap­pear that the new leg­is­la­tion and no-go ar­eas will only ap­ply to the shale gas sec­tor, and not those ex­plor­ing for or de­vel­op­ing “con­ven­tional” oil and gas,” Blue En­ergy man­ag­ing di­rec­tor John Phillips said. De­spite ques­tions hang­ing over when frack­ing could in fact re­sume, progress was still be­ing made. Within two weeks of the de­ci­sion, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment an­nounced the Ter­ri­tory’s Bee­taloo Sub-basin, near Kather­ine, was selected as the third and fi­nal re­gion to be as­sessed by Geo­science Aus­tralia and the CSIRO as part of the $30.4m Ge­o­log­i­cal and Biore­gional As­sess­ment Pro­gram. Work will be­gin on the Bee­taloo as­sess­ment mid-2018, which will di­rectly con­trib­ute to the Strate­gic Re­gional En­vi­ron­men­tal Base­line As­sess­ment (SREBA); a key rec­om­men­da­tion of the frack­ing in­quiry. Mr Gun­ner also ap­pointed Dr David Ritchie as the in­de­pen­dent of­fi­cer to over­see im­ple­men­ta­tion of the rec­om­men­da­tions. “Dr Ritchie brings over 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence as a chief ex­ec­u­tive to this role in­clud­ing head­ing the De­part­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources, En­vi­ron­ment and the Arts, and the Abo­rig­i­nal Ar­eas Pro­tec­tion Author­ity,” Mr Gun­ner said. “As a mem­ber of the in­quiry panel, Dr Ritchie’s knowl­edge and fa­mil­iar­ity with the rec­om­men­da­tions of the re­port make him ideally placed to en­sure im­ple­men­ta­tion is done hon­estly and ef­fec­tively.”

Im­age: Ori­gin En­ergy.

Ori­gin En­ergy op­er­ates three ex­plo­ration per­mits in the Bee­taloo Basin which were put on hold due to the mora­to­rium.

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