WIDE BAY – BURNETT AGRICULTURAL INDUSTRIES.
Report on the potential impacts of Unconventional Gas development on the Agricultural Industries in the Coastal Wide Bay Burnett Region.
A Report on the impacts on Surface water & Groundwater resources.
Prepared by Tom Crothers, Director – Stellar Advisory Services.
NOTE:- This report has been prepared with all due diligence and care and is reliant on information sourced from the Office of Queensland Parliamentary Counsel’s (OQPC) Website, the Department of Natural Resources, Mines & Energy’s(DNRM&E) Website, the Department of Environment and Science’s (DES) Website, SANTOS’ Website, the Bureau of Meteorology’s Website and other cited publications secured from other Websites. Stellar Advisory Services takes no responsibility for any errors or omissions contained within this document that are due to incorrect or incomplete information on these Websites. Any decisions made by parties other than Stellar Advisory Services client, which are based on this report are solely the responsibility of those parties.
Stellar Advisory Services was engaged by the Wide Bay - Burnett Water Agricultural Industries to undertake a desk top analysis and prepare a report on the potential impacts of the establishment of an unconventional gas industry by Blue Energy on the Coastal Wide Bay Burnett Region’s surface and groundwater resources within the Maryborough Geological Basin. A synopsis of the findings of this analysis is presented in this Executive Summary.
- Blue Energy holds 3 X Authorities to Prospect for petroleum resources over a large part of the Coastal Wide Bay Burnett Region. Two of these Authorities are due to expire on 31st December, 2018 and the third is due to expire and not be renewed on 31st March, 2019. The Queensland Petroleum & Gas legislation does not allow for the cancellation of these expired Authorities – only a partial relinquishment of exploration blocks or sub-blocks. Unless Blue Energy agrees to fully relinquish the two Authorities expiring in December 2108, they are likely to be renewed.
- A Report prepared by Geosciences Australia on the Maryborough Basin outlines the prospective coal and gas resources of the Maryborough Basin as:
- The middle section of the Burrum Coal Measures contains what are considered to be economically viable seams of black coal.
- The most viable conventional (gas) hydrocarbon reservoir in the Maryborough Basin is the ‘Gregory Sandstone member’ of the Maryborough Formation.
- MBA Petroleum Consultants (2010) identified the ‘Cherwell Mudstone Member’ (within the Maryborough Formation) as a shale gas target.
- Kunskraa, Stevens et al (2011) identified the Maryborough Basin as one of four (4) Basins in Australia with major shale gas potential.
- The prospective shale gas resource in the Cherwell and Goodwood Mudstone Members of the Maryborough Formation are potentially the focus of Blue Energy’s interest.
- Queensland’s legislative frameworks provide statutory “underground water rights” to the Resources Industry (Mining and Petroleum & Gas lease holders) to take unlimited volumes of “associated groundwater” during their development and production operations. These rights are secured through an Environmental Authority for a petroleum & gas lease which overrides any existing groundwater planning instruments or plans. Any impairment to existing water bores is to be addressed through “Make Good” obligations by the Petroleum & Gas lease holder.
- While Queensland has a Regional Planning Interests Act which ostensibly offers protection to “priority agriculture areas” and “strategic cropping areas” through State Government prepared Regional Plans – this legislation is not sufficiently robust. There are exemptions in this legislation which allow petroleum & gas projects to still be approved in these “priority and strategic areas”. Furthermore - the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Plan is outdated and does not contain sufficient or robust protective measures for high quality agricultural lands. Both the Regional Planning Interests Act and the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Plan need amending to provide robust protection of high quality agricultural areas.
- An expansion of the Unconventional Gas Industry into the Coastal Wide Bay Burnett Region is likely to involve the hydraulic fracking of gas wells. Any hydraulic fracking operations will require a substantial water supply. Hydraulic fracking could require up to 26,700ML of water for a single fracking of 100 shale gas well pads. The likely source of this water is currently unknown. If a Coastal Wide Bay Burnett shale gas industry was to access its projected water use of 26,700ML/yr from aquifers utilized for agriculture, it could have serious implications on the “announced take” of groundwater by agriculture in the region.
- The hydraulic fracking of gas wells presents some significant risks to underground water quality, surface water quality and human health. The safe disposal of toxic fracking “flow back” fluids, the potential for well failure and the associated leakage of fracking fluids as well as the failure or overflow of ponds and tanks holding toxic fracking fluids, all present significant risks for soil and water contamination. The Coastal Wide Bay Burnett community needs to inform government that it finds these risks unacceptable and it will not tolerate an Unconventional gas industry in the Region.
- Evidence in the United States of America indicates that reinjection of fracking wastewater will increase the risk of seismic activity in earthquake susceptible areas. Given that the Wide Bay Burnett Region is one of the most susceptible areas to earthquakes in Queensland, this evidence from the United States of America is highly relevant to the Region.