Dormant gas exploration licences emerge as next frontier in New South Wales gas battle


About a years back, a coal joint gas business went door knocking in the New South Wales Upper Hunter.

What took place next would drive a wedge through Anne Bishop’s household.

A close relative signed an agreement with the gas business to enable exploratory drilling on their farm near Bunnan.

Ms Bishop, who resides on a neighbouring block, emphatically opposed gas.

“Well of course, it’s a betrayal and it didn’t do anything that was good for family relationships,” she stated.

Most of the wells have actually because been decommissioned however neighborhood stress over gas still simmers.

Now, it threatens to bubble to the surface area when again.

Energised by the approval of the Narrabri Gas Project, and the federal government’s so-called gas fired healing from COVID-19, business have actually zeroed in on other prospective gas fields in New South Wales.

Ms Bishop’s relationship with her relative has “lost of a lot of its warmth”.(ABC Landline: Jake Lapham)

‘Narrabri is simply the very first horse to bolt’

Lecturer in energy law at the University of Sydney, Madeline Taylor, stated the policy environment at both state and federal levels was beneficial to gas jobs.

“Narrabri just is really the first horse to bolt and it represents the beginnings of a re-invigoration of the gas industry in New South Wales,” Dr Taylor stated.

Twelve dormant petroleum exploration licences, or PELS, are forming as the next frontier for gas.

A map of New South Wales showing gas licences from the Hunter up to Queensland
The licenses cover 55,000 square kilometres of land from the Hunter, up through New England to the Queensland border.(ABC Landline)

They offer the business who hold them the right to study for gas.

But after the New South Wales federal government froze new applications in 2011, they have actually slowly ended.

All 12 licence holders have actually used to restore their titles.

Among them is Comet Ridge, who revealed to the ASX soon after Narrabri was authorized, that it “anticipates a return to exploration and appraisal” on 2 the licenses it holds near Moree.

A newspaper clipping reading 'no end to coal seam gas battles'
Gas exploration has actually been a problem in some neighborhoods for over a years.(ABC Landline: Jake Lapham)

The state federal government is anticipated to pick the applications in the coming months, accompanying the statement of a new gas technique.

The policy is forming as a critical point for the future of gas in New South Wales.

Water issues

The statement will be nervously enjoyed by David and Paula Stevenson.

They run a livestock farm on the borders of Bunnan, which is covered by PEL 456.

Santos and Hunter gas have exploration rights over the location extending from Scone in the east, to Coolah in the west.

David Stevenson saw the possibility of coal joint gas infecting their underground water system, as an existential hazard.

“Our problem is that if these aquifers are interfered with in any way, poisoned, contaminated in any way at all, then there is no water for the stock, that is the end of our business,” he stated.

A man leaning on a white ute with cattle in the background
Mr Stevenson has actually farmed on his home for thirty years.(ABC Landline: Jake Lapham)

They desire the state federal government to step in and snuff out the dormant licences.

“There’s absolutely no need for them, there’s no need for this angst that is present, there’s no need for these threats that exist of people sort of taking over your land and ruining it,” Mr Stevsenson stated.

Employment chances

Steve Eather farms even more north near Narrabri.

He stated financial investment had actually been streaming into the town because the Narrabri Gas Project was authorized, and advised other areas to think about the advantages coal joint gas might bring.

“I think the benefits that will show up as they have in Narrabri, with increased employment availability, infrastructure increasing in the towns so that the local people can have confidence that their children will be employed locally,” he stated.

A man with a green shirt and glasses looking at camera with grain silos in background
Mr Eather’s thinks while the Narrabri neighborhood is divided over gas, there are a great deal of peaceful fans.(ABC Landline: Jake Lapham)

Mr Eather did not share David and Paula Stevenson’s issues about groundwater contamination.

“I feel the protocols that have been put in place by the Government on Santos have been strong, and I’m sure that company will follow the decisions, otherwise, they will cancel their licence,” he stated.

‘Not financially or ecologically feasible’

Deputy Premier John Barilaro is tight-lipped on what might be in his Future of Gas policy.

But he has actually foreshadowed doing something about it on a variety of the dormant PELs.

“When I do release the gas strategy, and hopefully not too far off, I’m going to use that at the same time to extinguish a number of PELS across the state,” he stated.

“I think a variety of those are not financially or ecologically feasible.”

A warm sunrise lens flair over a green paddock.
PEL 456 covers big parts of the Hunter Valley.(ABC Landline: Jake Lapham)

Law lecturer Dr Taylor said even if some of the PELs were extinguished, it was merely a band-aid solution.

“Strengthening land usage safeguards for farming land and farming land security zones is a far more reliable, long-lasting service to guaranteeing that our prime farming land is not trespassed upon by exploration and production of gas,” Dr Taylor stated.

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