FOSSIL FUEL exploration permits, leases and applications cover more than half the landmass of Australia. In WA, oil and gas permits and applications cover a vast area of the state. They overlie sedimentary basins in the Kimberley, Gascoyne, Mid West, Perth and the South West. Shale and tight gas are the primary targets for frackers in WA.
Between 2004 and late 2015, at least 17 exploration wells were drilled in the search for shale and tight gas in WA. At least 12 were fracked to test the capacity of the reserves to produce commercial quantities of gas. The fracked wells were:
Arrowsmith 2, Corybas 1, Senecio 2, Warro 3, 4, 5 &6 and Woodada Deep 1 in the Mid West.
Whicher Range 5 in the South West and Asgard 1, Valhalla North 1 and Yulleroo 2 in the Kimberley.
Fracking is proposed for areas of the Perth Basin, a geological formation that runs 1,300km along the west coast from Geraldton to Augusta.
Part of the Perth basin underlies the Perth metropolitan area. Significant gas fields have been found in the northern parts of the basin in the Mid West.
Private company Southern Sky Energy holds an exploration licence running from the heart of the Swan Valley north to an area near Eneabba. The company has said publicly that it is only interested in conventional gas.
Pilot Energy Ltd holds exploration permits covering 2,310sqkm of the Peel region from just south of Mandurah to just north of Bunbury. The company says it is “presently focused on conventional reservoirs only.
Bunbury Energy, previously named Unconventional Resources Pty Ltd, has been granted a gas lease covering more than 600 sqkm iof the south west.
The exploration permit covers the five local government areas of Bunbury, Busselton, Capel, Dardanup and Donnybrook-Balingup and includes substantial dairy, beef and fruit growing industries.
While the company has said it doesn’t plan to frack the local community is not convinced.
In 2004 more 1.2million litres of diesel was used as fracking fluid in an unsuccessful attempt to extract gas from the Whicher Range, north-east of Margaret River. That exploration permit is in State Forest. More than half the diesel sent down the frack hole was not recovered and is still there. The company behind the current exploration in the area, CalEnergy is awaiting results from its recent test wells to see if the gasfield is economic. It has said it is examining ways to get tight gas out of the field without fracking. Studies have shown fracking won’t work in the gasfield.
The Mid west is ground zero for the fracking industry in WA. Much of the region is covered by gas leases.
The Mid West overlies the northern section of the Perth Basin, a geological formation that contains substantial deposits of tight and shale gas. In the Mid West, development is going ahead at a rapid rate.
The Canning Basin, which underlies much of the Kimberley, is thought to have substantial oil and gas reserves.
Junior oil and gas company Buru Energy has extensive exploration permits in the Kimberley and is targeting tight gas. It operates in the Canning Superbasin on pastoral lands between Broome and Fitzroy Crossing. It has test fracked a number of wells and has undertaken seismic testing in the area. Buru’s partner is the Mitsubishi Corporation.
In 2015 the State Government gave approval for Buru to undertake 40 fracks across four wells including Yulleroo 3, Yulleroo 4, Valhalla and Asgard. As of March 2015 not all 40 fracks had been done. Mines Minister Bill Marmion said each frack would use approximately 3529 litres of chemicals, meaning more than 140,000 litres of chemicals would be tipped down the four wells.
Asgard 1, on the remote Aboriginal station of Noonkanbah 100km southwest of Fitzroy Crossing, was fracked by Buru in September 2015. Flow testing is ongoing.
Buru also fracked its Valhalla North 1 well in September 2015 and is also still testing the gas flow.
In July 2015 aluminum producer Alcoa terminated a $40M agreement to buy gas from Buru, throwing new doubt on the viability of the company’s plans to frack in the Kimberley. Buru has to repay Alcoa a $40M prepayment as a result of the termination of the deal.
Local opposition to fracking has included a long running protest camp 70km from Broome near an area known as the Jackeroo Turn Off. A member of the camp noticed detectable gas leaks at Buru’s Yulleroo 2 well in late 2014 and filmed the leak. He was prosecuted for trespass after the video was broadcast.
During his trail the court heard evidence that the Department of Environment and Conservation had passed on concerns about a gas leak at the well as far back as 2013, but the Department of Mining and Petroleum had done little to fix the problem.
Yulleroo 2, owned by Buru, was fracked in 2010 and since that date it appears that not much has been done to monitor or maintain the well.
Fracking is taking place around the world especially in the United States where by 2013 more than 2 million fracks had been done. Nearly all new oil and gas wells in the US are now fracked and the country has seen a raft of problems arise as a result of the practice. It is a major environmental concern in the US.
In New York State fracking is now banned due to significant adverse impacts it was having on land, water, natural resources and it’s potential significant public health impacts.
Fracking is also banned in other countries including France and Tunisia. There are restrictions on fracking in Germany; a moratorium in Scotland; and Wales is also moving towards a ban.