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