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Plibersek must act as NT Gov approves Tamboran’s latest frack plan

Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek must ensure Tamboran’s “Shenandoah South” fracking plan is scrutinised under new water trigger laws, after the NT Government signed off on the project without requiring further assessment. The decision was made at 7pm Thursday in the leadup to the first long weekend of the dry season.

Despite Tamboran’s plans to drain more than one billion litres of groundwater over four years for the project, and the clear risk it poses to the culturally and environmentally significant Lake Woods, the project has not been called in for the increased scrutiny the water trigger would provide. Nor will it require an environmental impact statement.

Total unabated greenhouse emissions are expected to be 400,000 tonnes. The NT Fracking Inquiry recommendation 9.8 said the NT and Federal governments should ensure there’s no net increase in greenhouse emissions anywhere in Australia from shale gas activities in the NT. The approval granted last night fails to meet this requirement. 

This is the first NT fracking project approved since national environment laws were amended in late December 2023 in Federal Parliament to extend the water trigger to shale gas fracking.

Tamboran’s full Environmental Management Plan was 3,600 pages long, and was lodged just before the Christmas-New Year period. Communities had just 28 days to respond, and the NT Government abruptly closed the public submission period on the morning of the final day, breaking with standard practice to close it at the end of the day.  

Despite its length, groups were astrounded at its lack of important details.

Hannah Ekin, from the Central Australian Frack Free Alliance, said “Tamboran’s Shenandoah gasfield plans are an absolute disaster for the NT.

“The NT Government should never have approved Tamboran’s EMP because it contained incomplete information concerning its impact on water, habitat, threatened species, and climate.

“We believe the company has massively underestimated the project’s greenhouse gas emissions and its direct impacts on the environment."

Phil Scott, from Parents for Climate Darwin, said, “Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek could have called it in for federal assessment at any time since it was announced but hasn’t done so. Territorians are really worried Minister Plibersek won’t use the new water trigger powers.

“Territorians know the gas industry has enormous influence over the Lawler Government, so sadly this approval is no surprise. 

“Ironically, this approval was announced just before a long-week-end when many Territorians are travelling to go camping, boating, fishing and swimming in the very landscapes and waterways these fracking projects could destroy.

“We’re calling for the Federal Minister, Tanya Plibersek, to step up urgently and either require the company refer it or call it in herself for full assessment under the water trigger.

“This would ensure independent expert scrutiny that is urgently needed to properly assess the full impact of this project. Tamboran’s Shenandoah project is an crucial test for Minister Plibersek and the government’s new water trigger.”



Last year, Tamboran Resources was fined for using 300,000 litres of untreated wastewater to suppress dust at its Maverick 1 site in 2022, ahead of big rains. Whistle-blower contractors later revealed they were told to spray drill rig water despite Tamboran knowing the fluid was contaminated. In the same year a bund wall broke during flooding, spilling sediment and potentially toxic chemicals down towards Newcastle Creek. Investigations were also launched for what appeared to be the pumping of contaminated water into a cattle breeding paddock last year. 

The Environment Minister’s decision to greenlight an earlier fracking proposal by Tamboran has led to a Supreme Court challenge by the Central Australia Frack Free Alliance, and groups are awaiting a judgement.

Last year, Tamboran was granted approval to “re-domicile” to the known tax secrecy jurisdiction of Delaware in the United States.

Impacts of the Shenandoah Exploration and Appraisal project:

  • Tamboran wants to drill and frack 15 horizontal gas wells. Based on recent wells drilled in adjoining areas, these may reach 4,300m deep and over 1,000m long.  

  • Use up to 1.1 billion litres of water for fracking and drilling, including extracting 375 million litres each year year of water from the Gum Ridge Formation of the Cambrian Limestone Aquifer from up to 24 new groundwater bores. 

  • Tamboran’s plan indicates the project will use as much as 606,000 litres of chemicals and 2,351 tonnes of sand per well.

  • Tamboran proposes storing up to 34 million litres of wastewater in huge open storage ponds on site during the wet season, despite Fracking Inquiry recommendations that fracking wastewater should be kept in enclosed tanks to limit contamination risks.

  • The project would be built upstream of Lake Woods - the NT’s largest freshwater lake and a place of immense cultural significance for Traditional Owners.

  • The project would clear 145 hectares of habitat likely to support threatened and declining species including the Gouldian Finch and Spectacled Hare-wallaby.

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