Media release, News, The Fracking Inquiry

Report shows alarming number of serious spills at WA fracking test sites in past 5 years

TUESDAY, January 15, 2019: There were 21 spills of oil, polluted water, drilling mud and chemicals at fracking sites in WA that were serious enough to require reporting to authorities in the five years to November 2017, the WA Fracking Inquiry report has revealed for the first time

The serious spills don’t even include the nearly 400 other spills that took place over the same period at oil and gas mining, exploration and production sites in WA including smaller spills at fracking test sites across the state.

Included in the list of reportable incidents at fracking sites was the discharge of more than 300,000 L of a water based mud mix from a well-pad in the Kimberley in 2015 and 100 barrels of drilling mud from a well pad in the Mid West in 2014.

Also listed was a transport tanker spill in the Kimberley in 2016 that saw 8,300L of an unspecified substance spill into the environment; a diesel fuel tank leak that resulted in the loss 1,000L of diesel in the Mid West in 2012; and a chemical failure on a high generator fuel line that resulted in a spill of 2500L of diesel in the Mid West in 2017.

A spokesperson for Lock the Gate in WA, Jane Hammond said the number of spills was alarming especially given the fact that only a handful of test fracking wells had so far been drilled in WA and there had been no horizontal fracking wells drilled.

“These details that have only just come to light as part of the WA Fracking Inquiry show an industry riddled by mistakes, miscalculations and human error,” Ms Hammond said.

“Since 2004 we have only seen a dozen fracking wells in WA yet we see a litany of spills and incidents. These reportable spills have been happening on average once every three months over the past five years and are likely to be the tip of the iceberg as they rely on the fracking companies actually admitting to their mistakes. 

“They are part of a bigger problem in the onshore oil and gas industry that has seen an average of one spill every four days for the past five years.

“It is also of great concern that the fracking inquiry’s report is the first time that this data has been made available to the public.”

Incidents also took place in the South West with multiple small spills of diesel, drilling mud and oil in late 2013, at the same time that work was taking place at a previous fracking site in the Whicher Range. The South West spills included a discharge that saw 240L of drilling fluid spew into a bunded area.

“The WA Government has just given the greenlight to fracking in WA, a situation that could see thousands more wells dotting the landscape. How can this industry be effectively policed? As these statistics show fracking mistakes can, and frequently do, happen.”F

*Details of the spills are outlined in Appendix 10 of the WA Fracking Inquiry’s report. A copy is availablehere