Fracking in WA

The inquiry into Fracking in WA started in October 2013 and was predicted to take two years to finish. It has received over 100 reviews (including Robin Chapple’s submission), visited Broome and the Midwest, and sought evidence on the implications for fracking.
 
To view Robin's submission to the inquiry, click here: Robin Chapple’s Submission for Fracking InquiryThe wait for the finding of the inquiry has still seen numerous exploration tenements, and early drilling occur. The Greens (WA) will continue to oppose all forms of fracking in WA.
 
Buru Energy was allowed to frack for gas in Western Australia’s north without an Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) assessment. This led to a fracking network being placed on Yawuru land without permission last year. Also, Sydney-based company AWE discovered what could be Western Australia’s largest onshore gas field in the Perth Basin, which has led to the early stages of three wells.

Small communities continue to fight against Fracking, as can be seen by the Shire of Coorow; a group of small towns who voted unanimously in August 2014 to suspend all fracking activity in the area pending a full environmental assessment and public inquiry.

Tasmania extended its moratorium on fracking for another five years in Feb 2015. This decision was done to protect Tasmania’s reputation as a purveyor of fresh, clean and safe produce from the uncertainty that fracking brings.

The Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) has recently introduced new regulations after a report into the regulations surrounding unconventional gas exploration found a number of gaps in regulation, including that environmental management plans were unenforceable.  These new regulations ensure that all chemicals used in fracking in Western Australia must be disclosed to the public and makes a summary of environmental management plans available from the DMP.  These new regulations have created a level of transparency that is very welcome, but there is still room for improvement in the transparency around monitoring and enforcement of the environmental management plan. In September 2013 there was a WA Parliamentary inquiry into unconventional gas fracking.

The Greens Position:

The Greens oppose the Barnett Government’s reckless promotion of the fledgling shale and tight gas industry.  The Barnett Government is ignoring our State’s already excessive contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions.  A re-investment of funds in favour of developing the renewable energy sources with which WA, as detailed in the Greens’ comprehensive Energy 2029 plan, is a far safer way to secure a prosperous future for Western Australians to come.

What the Greens propose:

The world already has more than five times the amount of fossil fuel available than it can burn without raising the global temperature more than two degrees.  The only responsible course of action is to leave unconventional gas in the ground.  Development and investment in the unconventional gas industry is simply the wrong policy approach. 

The Greens call for a ban on unconventional gas and until such time as that ban is instituted, we need:

  • A higher royalty rate on unconventional gas wells, to better reflect the monitoring and enforcement complications required by each well. (Currently, royalty rates for these wells are set at 50% of the rate of conventional gas wells)
  • No funding to be made available to assist in exploration and development of unconventional gas sources. (Currently, unconventional gas exploration may apply for funding from the $26.9 million ‘Innovative Drilling Program’ section of the Exploration Incentive Scheme, made up from Royalties for Regions money)
  • No hydraulic fracturing to be carried out until such time as the monitoring and enforcement scheme is undertaken by a third party.  (Currently, the DMP is responsible both for assisting and regulating industry)
  • No State Agreements with unconventional gas companies.

All aspects of the unconventional gas industry, including environmental management plans, monitoring regimes and results and enforcement actions to be fully transparent and publicly available. 


What is Fracking?

Fracking refers to the extraction of all forms of unconventional gas by fracturing and fissuring source rock formations. In most cases the constructed well is drilled to the target formation, then horizontally through the formation. Small explosive charges are then set off at intervals along the horizontal section to make a series of small cracks. The rock is then ready for fracking and a slurry (comprising of water, sand and chamicals) is injected into the well at intense pressure, causing the small cracts to split and fracture. The sand props these fractures open and when the slurry is pumped back to the surface, natural gas (which is now freed from the pores in the fractured rock, flows.

For more information on fracking, visit ABC Science.

 

Concerns:
 
Unfortunately, drilling up to 3 kilometres below the surface, and pumping chemicals at high pressure into the ground has risks. For more information on concerns surrounding Fracking, visit CSIRO.
 
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