Origin Energy’s latest Northern Territory drilling application shows the fracking company is attempting to covertly produce gas for commercial sale from a so-called exploratory project.
Last month, Origin Energy submitted an Environmental Management Plan for 12 new frack wells on Amungee Mungee Station near Daly Waters.
"Despite claiming the project is “exploratory”, a closer examination of the EMP reveals Origin is proposing to produce, use, and potentially sell gas from its project to the McArthur River Pipeline, which supplies Glencore's McArthur River zinc and lead mine.
On page 43 of its EMP, Origin states, “Where possible (and authorised under the Petroleum Act), hydrocarbons may be beneficially utilised onsite for power generation or external sale... In such a case, hydrocarbons may be processed onsite through simple compression and dehydration and piped to the adjacent MacArthur River Pipeline.”
Hannah Ekin from Arid Lands Environment Centre said Origin Energy was trying to pursue production by stealth, which would subvert Fracking Inquiry recommendations requiring additional research and environmental controls to be in place before production commenced in the Territory.
“There are serious questions about the lawfulness of Origin Energy seeking to produce and sell gas under an exploration permit - this seems to be an attempt at production by stealth,” she said.
“This huge proposal to frack 12 new wells and operate them for at least three years and sell off the gas, before Fracking Inquiry recommendations about gas production have been implemented, is a serious risk to the Territory, our water resources, and the climate.
“The Fracking Inquiry specifically raised concerns about exploration creep – production masquerading as exploration to enable the industry to expand without the proper regulations being in place - so it’s very disturbing to see it playing out now” (see p413 of Final Report).”
Origin Energy could be in breach of the Petroleum Act if it was to sell gas under an exploration permit - section 29 specifies that exploration permits only provide a right to take gas for "sampling and testing" - not commercial sale.
“Origin’s apparent disdain for the law is just a taste of things to come if fracking companies are allowed to commence full scale production in the Territory,” Ms Ekin said.
“Just as farmers in Queensland are now suffering thanks to the scourge of unconventional gas, so too will communities in the NT if the Fyles Government continues to back the fracking industry over public safety and despite the huge damage it will cause.”