TNR continues to counter misinformation on fraccing in SE South Australia

The following letter, written by Bruce Holland of The Norwood Resource, was published in the Border Watch today, 27 October:

Further to my letter to The Editor (Thursday 8th Oct), and in regard to numerous articles over the last 3 to 4 weeks published in The Border Watch in relation to unconventional gas and fracture stimulation (fraccing), I would like to add a few further comments.

The tenor of most of the articles over the last 3 to 4 weeks is to heighten anxiety and concern through the use of unsubstantiated statements, claims and myths seemingly aimed to cast doubt about the integrity of drilling for and the production of hydrocarbons, be it from conventional or unconventional gas sources and the use of hydraulic fracture stimulation (fraccing) to enhance production.

There is often much confusion in the public about CSG, fraccing and unconventional gas. The anti fossil fuel activists want all of these banned immediately, and indefinitely, despite gas and oil drilling and production having been safely undertaken onshore around the world for over a hundred years.

Without the use of the wide range of products derived from oil and gas source materials, the impact on our daily lives would be dramatic, removing indispensable items, including fuel, plastics, computers, mobile phones and even wind farms.

Fracture stimulation (fraccing) is a production technology employed by the industry for more than 65 years (40+ years in Australia), with over 2 million wells fracced around the world, without any serious environmental impact.

In South Australia and Queensland, fracture stimulation has been used in the Cooper Basin on wells drilled through the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), an essential aquifer for ground water for stock and domestic use, without any detrimental impact. There are cattle stations producing organically certified beef in the same area. Proof that agriculture and the oil and gas industry can happily coexist.

Earlier this year the UK passed legislation to permit fracture stimulation below 300 meters. In the southeast of South Australia, over 100 wells have been drilled and there has been gas production (and gas processing plants) operating for many years, without any adverse impact on agriculture, health, the environment and the ‘clean green’ image of the area.

Over the years there have been many, many inquiries and engineering studies into fracture stimulation and its impact on groundwater, health, and the environment. The outcome of the rigorous inquiries into fracture stimulation by the UK Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering is best summed up by the UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Professor Sir Mark Walport, who stated: “What the science and the engineering tells you is that this is just a drilling technology and no drilling technology is completely risk free.. But if it is engineered well, if it is done well, if it is governed well, then, it is as safe as any other form of drilling, recognising that there is no ‘free lunch’, there is nothing that is completely risk free”

Further, the USA EPA recently released a draft report, which after four years study of many thousands of wells which have been fracture stimulated stated they “did not find any evidence… that led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States”.

Contrary to the views expressed by some of the anti fossil fuel voices, of particular concern is the regulatory regime which needs to be robust and diligent. We are indeed fortunate in SA, since the SA Regulator has been independently assessed as being in the top three regulatory regimes in the world for shale and tight gas, in which fracture stimulation is frequently required.

I hope this assists your readers to understand that fracture stimulation is not a new technology, nor has it caused widespread mayhem that some of the anti fossil fuel activists claim, rather it is a well understood production technique which has led to many benefits with many attributing fraccing to be one of the major reasons the USA has significantly reduced its greenhouse gas emissions since 2005, by replacing coal with gas for electricity generation.

For further information, I recommend readers review “The Facts” published by the SA Govt on their website.

Bruce Holland

Secretary

The Norwood Resource

Furthermore, it was pleasing to receive the following message from SACOME (South Australian Chamber Of Mines and Energy) on our Facebook page:

Excellent letter in the Border Watch today by your Bruce Holland. Is a pity the science is not enough but millions must be spent on studies around the world that repeatedly find the same outcomes. Anti fossil fuel activists should perhaps live their lifestyles by the ideals they promote, but more importantly, be held accountable for the accuracy of information they spread in the public arena. Misinformation and scaremongering can be damaging – more than most people realise in an economy that depends on its natural resources for the services we take for granted – including health and education.

TNR agrees, it is very sad and damaging for Australia when misinformation goes unchallenged enabling it to prevail in the form of myths and pseudoscience. Public opinion and government decisions should not be based on such misinformation.

The facts

The Facts (about natural gas and fracture stimulation in South Australia)

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Comments

  1. Yes millions are spent by gas companies funding research, to justify their actions. Read this research with data collated from the gas companies and credible sources. http://www.tai.org.au/content/be-careful-what-you-wish

    • johnnwdhughes says:

      Greg, thanks for your comment. It’s good that people are taking interest in our articles. However, TNR notes that the link you’ve provided to “research” by The Australia Institute (TAI) has not only been poorly proof-read (in terms of the numerous typo’ errors!), but even the figures that TAI rely on for their conclusions are very suspect.
      For example, the statement “According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) the oil and gas industry in Australia added only 9,400 jobs that year (2013), and employed 20,700 people in total.” cannot be correct even though TAI quote it as fact. This would imply there were only 11,300 employed in the industry in 2012.
      Surely TAI’s “researchers” are aware that the ABS figures do not include all employees involved in the oil and gas industry? This is because many categories of workers are included in other industries. For example:
      • employees engaged in an LNG plant are included in Manufacturing;
      • employees providing geophysical surveying services on a contract or fee basis are included in Surveying and Mapping Services;
      • catering personnel working on sites are reflected in the Accommodation and Food Services classification;
      • transport personnel (flight and maritime) working transporting personnel to and from platforms are reflected in the Postal and Warehousing industries;
      • contractors employed in site preparation on a contract or fee basis are listed under Site Preparation Services.
      TAI’s “researchers” should surely have realised that the numbers they quote are obviously questionable. A very quick look at the Santos and Woodside annual reports for 2012 would show that they had 3289 and 3997 employees respectively (ie 7286 between them). Although some of these employees may have been based in overseas locations, the overseas employees would have been a very small proportion of the total workforce. It is inconceivable that, given the mega-developments by the likes of QGC, Origin, Chevron and others being conducted in 2012, that the Santos/Woodside workforce would have represented about 65% of the oil/gas industry workforce at that time. Surely even a high school student could have identified such a mismatch! Furthermore, it is well known that for every job in an oil company there are several jobs generated in service companies contracted by an oil company. The multiplier is variable, depending on the activities conducted by the oil company, but the following link: http://www.appea.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/Q2-2013-Total-CSG-Industry-Data.pdf shows that, in the second quarter of 2013, for 4664 company employees working in the CSG industry in Queensland, there were 24784 contractor employees, giving a total of 29,448 and a multiplier factor of over 5:1. Even the number of 29448 is far greater that the (suspect) total of 20700 reported for the whole of Australia by the ABS.
      Start adding in some of the mega projects that, for example, Chevron were conducting on the NW Shelf (http://www.chevronaustralia.com/docs/default-source/publications/frontier-issue-12.pdf), in which they stated in 2013 “to date, about 10,000 Australian jobs have been created on the Gorgon Project with more than 6,000 workers on and around Barrow Island. At Wheatstone, we have more than 3,000 personnel already housed at the Construction Village at Ashburton North and more than 4,000 working for the project Australia-wide” leads to the conclusion that the number of 100,000 jobs involved in the oil and gas industry is much more reliable than the false number of 20,700 claimed by TAI on the basis on their misunderstanding of the ABS numbers.
      Incidentally, APPEA did not claim that 100,000 jobs were added in 2012 – simply that, at the peak of the oil/gas construction boom in 2012, the oil/gas industry provided jobs for 100,000 employees in all sectors of the industry.
      In conclusion, when TAI’s main claim can so easily be proved incorrect, how can anyone believe the other claims in their “research”?

  2. Catherine says:

    climate change is real and fossil fuels are the cause – so what is wrong about being anti-fossil fuel? Am I wrong for wanting a planet that is liveable and has a safe climate and abundant biodieversity? Am I wrong for pushing for renewable energy instead of gas, which is a fossil fuel? As a doctor, I am already dealing with illness caused by high temperatures such as dehydration this year, bushfires have started and are a constant fear, and what about the failed crops in the Mallee, for the second year in a row. There is even a drought in the lower Limestone Coast of SA an area known for its wetlands and rain. What impact is this having on these communities mental health? I dont see myself as radical, but practical. Prove to me with the science that gas extraction is safe? I dont think you can. But this is not the right question, the right question is Do I want more fossil fuels such as Gas, and the answer is NO.

    • Bruce Holland says:

      Thank you Catherine for your comment.
      I have re read your comment, and it appears to be a statement rather than a question.
      Your statement is clear in the first two lines where you state “climate change is real and fossil fuels are the cause – so what is wrong about being anti-fossil fuel?”
      I guess the first question that occurred to me when I read this was “What caused the previous climate changes over the last billion or so years?” particularly since fossil fuels has only been around for a 100 years or so?
      Catherine, there is nothing wrong about renewable energy being part of the energy mix, however to make statements without any evidence or facts to substantiate the statement is just chanting.
      You say that you see yourself as practical, well you will recognise then that the transition to renewables is going to be quite a long process, particularly given that so many products are derived from fossil fuels, such as fuel, many pharmaceutical products (which you probably use now), plastics etc.
      You will also recognise that gas (which is a cleaner burning fuel) replacement for coal is a step toward reducing GHG as has occurred in the USA, and so we ought to develop our resources to assist with this transition.
      It is unfortunate that there are many people in the world without what we take for granted, electricity on demand.
      It is also unfortunate that coal fired power is the least cost option to provide electricity for these people. However the next least cost option is generally gas (LNG).
      You ask for the gas development to be done ‘safely’ that is the aim of all involved, but what is ‘safe’ Catherine?, define safe.
      Safe is to reduce the risk to as low as reasonably practical – which is a requirement for all gas projects in SA.
      Bruce Holland

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