Path ‘now clear for NT onshore shale gas exploration’

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Santos has welcomed the company’s approval for the first Environmental Management Plan (EMP) to be awarded for onshore shale gas exploration in the Northern Territory since the moratorium was lifted in early 2018.

NT Environment and Natural Resources Minister Eva Lawler approved Santos’ Drilling EMP for the Tanumbirini 2H and Inacumba 1/1H wells in Exploration Permit 161 in the McArthur Basin, east of Daly Waters.

Santos is operator of, and has a 75 per cent interest in, the permit.

The Adelaide-headquartered oil and gas company said the green light for the resumption of drilling activities in the basin followed last month’s approval of the EMP for civil works at and around the well locations, as well as the acquisition of 2D seismic data.

Santos Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Gallagher said approval of the Drilling EMP is an important milestone that clears the way to restart onshore shale gas exploration in the resource-rich McArthur Basin.

“We drilled Tanumbirini 1 in 2014 and liked what we saw, so we are delighted to be in a position to resume exploration drilling,” Mr Gallagher said.

“Local communities desperately need the jobs, small business opportunities and investment the onshore natural gas industry will bring, and with the new regulatory regime in place to ensure that the environment and water resources are protected, we’ll be moving as quickly as possible and doing our best to beat the approaching wet season.”

Santos is currently completing drilling of the Dukas 1 well in the Amadeus Basin and the next drilling location for the Ensign 965 rig will depend on the rig release date from Dukas 1.

APPEA was singing off the same hymn sheet as Santos as the peak body lauded the Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industries and Resources, Paul Kirby, and Environment Minister, Eva Lawler, for changes to the regulatory framework for the onshore gas industry that would “enable the sector to get back to work”.

The near two-year moratorium and subsequent 18-month implementation process has been completed after the Government enacted the recommendations of its Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing.

“This signals a strong decision by the Government to support the development of the NT’s abundant gas resources,” APPEA said.

“The recommendations now implemented include the creation of detailed codes of practice, shifting of responsibility for approvals to the Environment Minister, improving transparency and disclosure requirements, amendments to the Water Act and the release of a series of “no go zones” for oil and gas activity.”

APPEA Northern Territory Director Keld Knudsen welcomed the NT Government’s acknowledgment of the key role the oil and gas industry can play in revitalising the Territory’s economy.

“The industry will play a crucial role in growing the Territory’s economy and promoting regional development through further investment in developing the NT’s natural resources,” Mr Knudsen said.

“The sector remains committed to working with the Territory Government and local business community to maximise opportunities for employment, while making a meaningful low-carbon contribution to our energy needs.

“The Territory’s oil and gas industry offers jobs, local contracts and diversified incomes while upholding safety and operating safely to protect water and the environment.

“We’re determined to play our part to ensure all Territorians benefit from the development of their natural resources.”

Mr Knudsen said APPEA’s member companies stand ready to invest billions of dollars into the economy if currently planned exploration is successful.

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