Facts ignored in SE South Australia fracking activism

Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen a heightened profile of the anti fracking and anti unconventional gas activists being reported in the Border Watch, a regional newspaper, which services the South Eastern area of South Australia.
Australia is heading for an election (July 2 2016) and while the major issues revolve around Border Security, Health, Education and Economic Management, in some regional centres around Australia, many local activists want their issues to be front and centre, particularly where they feel they have some support from swing voters.
The South East of South Australia is no different. Local activists seem to relish the opportunity to publicise their cause, regardless of the facts.
The Border Watch, without checking out the facts relating to the claims, has even succumbed to the hysteria by advocating a moratorium on fracking and unconventional gas, even asserting the local activist group is a respected organisation.
If the publisher were to independently review the ‘facts’ it would be seen that this populist group does not have any foundation based on factual evidence to support it. Furthermore, publishing such information damages the reputation of the newspaper.

The facts

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

APPEA and SACOME responded to these half truths and nonsense assertions, providing facts and information in letters to the editor. However, as is often the case, the overwhelming and incessant emotive articles from the activists has caused unnecessary fear and misunderstanding among the readers of the newspaper.
In response, The Norwood Resource (which has taken many unfounded claims to task previously in The Border Watch) also submitted a letter in an attempt to bring some balance into this debate.
Unfortunately this letter is not yet published, although there were more sensationalist, scary stories about how fracking and unconventional gas will destroy forests, pristine(?) aquifers, and so forth.
We have therefore decided to publish our letter, which follows, through other media to ensure the evidence is available to public:

I write in regard to the many articles, letters and The Border Watch (TBW)’s editorial in regard to fracking and unconventional gas, which have been in TBW over recent weeks.

In many references, the opposition of fracking and unconventional gas development cite ‘potential’ impacts on water and aquifers, yet are unable to produce any evidence out of the 2.5 million fracks worldwide where a frack has propagated up from depth (4 km, where it is most likely any fracking in the South East would occur) to impact a near surface aquifer.

The use of the term ‘pristine’ to describe the aquifers is an emotive term and propaganda, since the aquifers have already been contaminated with pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers, and well as run off from other local activities, meat works, dairies, piggeries and the like. These cases of contamination have occurred in the past were essentially initiated at point sources, and have been diluted with the water in the aquifers.

Further, it is disingenuous to seek a zero risk guarantee (your editorial) when nobody lives in a zero risk environment now. Look at the number of car accidents there are! Everything we do has a risk element.

In regard to ‘clean green image’, over 100 wells have already been drilled in the SE, a gas processing plant operated, and there is a gas turbine still using gas to supply electricity requirements for the region, and the ‘clean green image’ has not been tarnished.

Some of your articles cite gas bubbling out of the ground due to oil and gas activities, however, this is a natural phenomenon, and was even cited in the book ‘A Town Like Alice’, where in the 1940’s part of the Saturday night fireworks was setting fire to gas from water bores to light up the night sky.

This is why oil & gas companies will look in areas where there are natural gas seeps, since there is evidence of gas being present in the area, which is no different to the SE, where methane has been recorded as being present in water bores, and even comprising up to 90% of the ‘air’ between the water level and the surface.

In regard to safety of unconventional gas and the use of fracking to enhance the production, even Professor Anthony Ingraffea (the darling of the anti frackers) stated when giving evidence to the SA Inquiry into Fracking and Unconventional Gas that fracking “.. in my opinion it is that part that brings with it the least risk.

Further, the lame attempt to reclassify the meaning of the term ‘fracking’ (hydraulic fracture stimulation), to include the whole process of drilling, fracking, production and processing means conventional gas operations (without fracking – and even prior to when fracking was invented) would also be classed as ‘fracking’, which is a nonsense, since no fracking has occurred. However, if the activists prefer to use this definition of fracking, please bear in mind the above referenced quote from Professor Ingraffea, who assisted in editing and reviewing the document to which Ms Lorenz refers.

It is important that in any oil & gas exploration and production activities that risks are maintained as low as reasonably practical (ALARP), which is the guide that the Department of State Development employ when assessing any applications to do work in any area in the State.

Further, it is of primary importance that we have confidence in our Regulator to provide proper and diligent oversight to any oil & gas activities in the SE, and so it is heartening to know that SA has been independently assessed as one of the top three resource regulatory regimes in the world for shale and tight gas, situations where fracking is used.

The SA Regulator ‘has runs on the board’ having overseen 850 or so fracks in the north east of the State, where wells are drilled through the Great Artesian Basin and fracked, all without any significant impact on the environment or aquifers, and where organically certified cattle stations operate.

Perhaps a little less reporting of scaremongering, unsubstantiated assertions, and a closer examination of findings from credible investigations and formal inquiries might bring some balance back into this debate.

Bruce Holland
The Norwood Resource


  1. johnnwdhughes says:

    Just letting readers know the letter was eventually published by The Border Watch on 6 July 2016, under the heading “Fracking impact ‘scaremongering’ challenged”

  2. Now Bruce Holland wants to blame “The Good People” of the Sth East for the States energy crisis! Well pardon me! I have read a number of articles over the last few years published in the Border Watch where Bruce want’s to knock the concerned ” Good People” of the Sth East! Reading the last article printed Friday 3/03/2017 where Bruce says to re-look at unconventional gas and Fracking in a neutral or positive light! Or doe’s he really mean ” The Good People” of the Sth East should be numb and just go with the flow so to speak! The ”Good People” of the Sth East are or so concerned not just of contamination of the Aquifer’s and watercourses but the scarring on the beautiful Landscape that is the Sth East! Answer me this! How many drilling pad’s would be located in the Sth East if Fracking was to occur? not including pond’s and the flaring and venting. Personally I think the negative’s well and truly out way any positive’s unconventional gas or fracking can bring to the Sth East of South Australia! Just my opinion! On that note I wish you a G’day Sir!

    • johnnwdhughes says:

      Shane, as per the Harlan Ellison quote: “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant”, it’s a shame that you have obviously not fully considered factual, scientific and verifiable information before arriving at your “opinion” regarding the “perils” faced by the “good people” of the SE in the event hydraulic fracture stimulation were to proceed in wells. Then again, groups like LCPA, use the same “playbook” as the global activist groups like Greenpeace. Greenpeace’s unethical activities are catching up with them. https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/03/03/dr-patrick-moore-was-right-greenpeace-is-full-of-shit/ I wonder how long it will be before the tactics used by the various groups in the SE will be exposed?

  3. bruceholland2013 says:

    Thank you Shane for your comments.
    My letter published in The Border Watch (3/3/17) is in no way derogatory toward the residents of the South East at all, merely those that create and perpetuate scare stories and myths generally based on ‘cheery picked’ or dubious bits of information from the internet, ideological groups (such as Lock the Gate and its associates etc.) that either deny or ignore actual facts and embark on their ideological crusade, roping in people with their misinformation and so called ‘facts’ which supports their ideological aims (no fossil fuels at all being produced). The Greens do this quite effectively – and Lock The Gate even trash eminent people’s reputations by misrepresenting their work.

    Activists specialise in the creation and propagation of scare stories knowing full well that their audience (typical Mums and Dads) don’t know anything about the oil and gas industry or the regulatory environment the industry operates in. The lack of verification and understanding of these scare stories and myths – which are ‘presented as facts or evidence’ – enable those activists to ‘get away with’ using these baseless lies to scare people, and the stories are repeated and repeated generally by those that do not know about the process and the actual facts.

    As a consequence these scare stories and myths become ‘accepted as facts’ when there is no compelling evidence to support these myths! Only further ‘stories, and even fabricated ‘evidence’. We see this time and time again and people hear how ‘bad’ something is and other people just repeat what they hear, it gets onto twitter, and then the mainstream media without any actual fact checking !
    So, when someone checks the so called ‘facts’(like the Norwood Resource in this case) and find that it is just rubbish, those that swear blind it is ‘factual’ get upset, as the actual facts no longer fit with their perception or ‘believed facts’.

    Good people who have been mislead are rightly upset finding out they have put their trust in someone (organisations like Lock The Gate and its associates) pedaling a false story, and they have added their support to it in the mistaken belief they are supporting something good – whereas in fact they were supporting a myth and perhaps a deliberate lie. I would be peed off as well.

    Take the now disproved myth that groundwater would be affected by fracking and see how easy that is to spread as being a ’so called fact’. Nobody wants to have the groundwater contaminated, although the aquifers in the SE have already been contaminated over the years with pesticides, fertilisers, meatworks runoff etc. This contamination has been generally point source, whereby there is dilution and the contamination has been contained to a relatively specific area and doesn’t impact on anybody.

    However, I am sure you can see my point, that is, scare stories are easy to create and propagate – just sprinkle a little bit of cherry picked ‘facts’ etc and you are away – no worries. This is the game the activists play, and good people get roped in by these scare stories. We all don’t have all the time in the world to verify what people tell us, and so we rely on experts and facts etc.
    How many activists have actually worked in the oil & gas industry? Not many, but people are believing ‘these activist experts’ who know nothing about the industry, the very respected SA Regulator or the regulations under which they must comply, etc etc ????

    Would you believe a doctor and/ or the medical board (the Regulator) about a medical condition and a prognosis? or would you prefer to hear from (and believe) someone that had never worked in the profession who has an ideological goal to ban the industry? This is essentially what we have going on over the last 3 or 4 years in SE .
    People taking advice and believing activists who know nothing about the industry but pass themselves off as being ‘experts’ and ‘knowledgeable’ in the field. It would have been far more honest to say I don’t want fracking in my area as I am a NIMBY. Unfortunately honesty got trashed when Lock the Gate and its associates became involved.

    So, now we have the situation where the SA Govt charged the Natural Resources Committee to investigate and to advise ‘does fracking impact on the groundwater?’ The result after 2 years investigation, reviewing much, much emotive heart rendering stories, so called ‘experts’, such as Professor Tony Ingraffia from Cornell University (who has admitted in court that he is a professional activist) who even stated that in his opinion fracking was the least risky part of the whole process! The Committee after 2 years, said basically the same thing from other credible inquiries had found, that is, fracking is unlikely to have an impact on groundwater.

    This is not what the activists wanted to hear, as this finding does not line up with their preconceived view, particularly when they convince themselves and other people who don’t know about the industry etc. What they have is a mislead view due to things like Group Think etc, and as I have pointed out above based on unsubstantiated myths and scare stories that reinforced this erroneous view.

    One might conclude that the good people of the South East were mainly the silent observers, with some being hoodwinked by this myth (fracking’s impact on groundwater), as well as other myths (some you allude to).

    Bear in mind, there have been over 100 wells drilled in the South East over the years, there has been gas production on and off over the years as well. There has not been any significant environmental or health impacts nor landscape scarring or any impact on the ‘clean green’ image of the South East.

    The reality is, if oil & gas exploration and production ever restarts in the South East (it is very costly exercise, with well costs in the order of $10m) it is unlikely that there are huge commercial quantities but there is always the chance that moderate commercial quantities could be discovered. Moderate commercial quantities would be say sufficient to supply gas for a 50 to 100 MW gas turbine, and perhaps to all the customers in the South East. This would also bring many opportunities to the area, and highly likely a lower cost for energy supply in the region.

    I think you may have mis interpreted my use of the term ‘good people of the South East’.

    Cheers and thanks

    Bruce Holland

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