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Fracking companies targeting polluting shale oil on Lake Eyre Basin floodplains, despite Palaszczuk promises to protect region

Freedom of information documents reveal fracking companies Origin Energy and Blue Energy are targeting shale oil production across a massive swathe of fragile rivers and floodplains in Queensland’s Lake Eyre Basin - despite multiple Palaszczuk Government election promises to protect the region.

The documents show the companies liken the reserves available to the major US shale-producing basins, the Bakken Formation and Eagle Ford Shale, and, if the application is successful, it would be the first instance of shale oil production in Australia.

The owner of the Authorities to Prospect tenements, Blue Energy, has also failed to comply with its government-assigned work program since it acquired the ATPs in 2014, but instead of being penalised, it has teamed up with Origin to apply for 30 year petroleum leases.

The size of these numerous Authority to Prospects (ATPs) is staggering - together they stretch over an area of the Lake Eyre Basin (225,000ha) almost as large as the ACT.

All this is despite ongoing government negotiations with Traditional Owners and local communities over whether exploitation of the fragile river systems should even occur at all.

Channel Country grazier Angus Emmott said, “The rivers and floodplains of the Lake Eyre Basin are the last desert rivers left in the world that have not been seriously degraded by humans. 

“Following two successive elections where the Premier made commitments to protect this system, it is time to stop playing games. Put legislative protection in place now.”

Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith said, “It is appalling that the Queensland Palaszczuk Government is considering allowing dirty, risky shale oil development in one of our most fragile and iconic areas.

“The Palaszczuk Government needs to come clean and immediately reject petroleum tenements within Lake Eyre Basin floodplains, and finalise the protection of these incredibly important rivers before it is too late.

“In the USA there have been numerous examples of flooding leading to contamination from fracking oil and gas fields in sensitive areas like floodplains.

“We’re incredibly disappointed that gas companies are getting a special pass, allowing them to go ahead and pursue applications to frack on floodplains despite not meeting basic requirements under the current petroleum act.

“As the world meets for COP26 in Glasgow to make a plan for major reductions in fossil fuel use, it is shocking that a project like this is even being considered.”

The International Energy Agency has modeled that no new oil, gas or coal production is required if the world is to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees. 

As well, a hidden independent scientific report commissioned in 2019 by the Queensland government, called for a ban on unconventional gas exploration in the region.


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