Now that Western Australia’s moratorium on fracking has been lifted, can gas from the Kimberley prove that it is economically viable?
While grand project concepts and environmental protests often dominate the coverage of the region’s oil and gas potential, the cost of doing business in a remote area with few roads and no pipelines has been the defining force. And experts say it is the cost of getting a product to market that will determine the future of gas fracking in the Kimberley’s Canning Basin.
Dr Peter Moore, an adjunct professor at Curtin University, has been an executive for Woodside Petroleum and is a director for Beach Energy and Carnarvon Petroleum.
“We know that they have found gas; the question of whether they can produce it commercially is a critical one though,” Dr Moore said.
Dr Moore welcomes the lifting of the moratorium saying it will allow work to proceed that can answer the question that will decide the future of fracking in the Kimberley.
“It costs a lot of money to develop an opportunity out there and get gas to the market because you need to put a pipeline in to get gas out and they’re expensive,” he said.
The West Australian Labor Government set up an independent scientific inquiry into the risks posed by fracking after being elected in 2017 and introduced a moratorium on the controversial practice.
But in November 2018 they announced the moratorium would be lifted after the inquiry found fracking posed a low risk to human health and the environment if appropriately regulated.
Environmentalists like director of Environs Kimberley Martin Pritchard insist fracking remains a threat to the environment in spite of the scientific inquiry’s findings and new regulations including fracking exclusion zones.
“We think with broader community consultation, as was promised, that would change,” Mr Pritchard said.
But deputy director of the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Dr Phil Gorey, said the community was consulted and fracking would not automatically be approved outside exclusion zones.
But the argument over the environmental impacts of gas fracking in the Kimberley looks likely to remain mostly theoretical for the foreseeable future, with Woodside Petroleum preparing to pipe cheaper conventional gas from its offshore Browse Basin.
Browse is a project which Kimberley gas will likely have to compete with, and Browse gas is probably around for the next 20 years.
Source: ABC News