PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Gas Market Taskforce, chaired by former Federal Minister Peter Reith, has recommended that the state of Victoria encourage the development of onshore gas projects, also recommending that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, should be allowed.
Reith noted that alternative sources of production would have to be sourced in Victoria and other eastern states to meet increasing demand, adding that alternative proposals, such as government reservations or subsidies, would not address the essence of the supply issue.
“Clearly, there is a lot of exaggeration about fracking. Independent advice to the taskforce from Geoscience Australia and other sources provided compelling evidence that fracking should be allowed.
“To allay concerns about fracking, the taskforce has recommended implementation of leading environmental and safety standards, including those recently agreed at the national level.”
Reith added that the taskforce also proposed that any chemicals used in fracking were to be disclosed to the Victorian regulator and made available to the public on the Gas Commissioner’s website.
“While the taskforce supports the safe application of fracking, the reality in Victoria, given its different geology, is that fracking is unlikely to be as extensive as in Queensland. To deny fracking to the gas industry would be to limit its ability to explore and better understand the resource,” he said.
However, Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said on Thursday that the moratorium on fracking would remain in place until at least July 2015, while a 12-month community consultation process was conducted.
The taskforce report, which made 19 recommendations, including that new coal seam gas exploration licences be issued, has now been opened for public comment.
“The release of the Gas Market Taskforce’s report demonstrates the Coalition government’s commitment to transparency and is the first step in a consultative process to seek Victorians’ views on issues of concern in regard to onshore gas in Victoria,” Napthine said.
Meanwhile, the Australian Pipeline Industry Association (Apia) has welcomed the report, adding that priority should be placed on the report’s recommendation that a gas commissioner be appointed.
“A government-appointed gas commissioner would consult with and build land-holder and community confidence in the processes around unconventional gas exploration and the potential for development in Victoria and provide an important bridge between government, industry and the community,” Apia CEO Cheryl Cartwright said.
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (Appea) has lamented the Victoria government’s decision to push back fracking until 2015, warning that it would further delay diversifying the development of natural gas resources in the state and would result in higher-than-necessary energy prices.
“The message to companies seeking to do business in Victoria - seeking to source natural gas, create jobs, revitalise rural communities, add to government revenue streams and provide additional income to farmers - is unfortunately crystal clear,” said Appea COO for Eastern Australia, Paul Fennelly.
“The Victorian government is paying more attention to short-term politics than science-based evidence and is clearly not displaying enough focus on attracting investment and building the economy, nor the consequences of failing to do so.
“Protracted decision-making processes mean no decision will be made to progress Victoria’s onshore gas industry for at least another two years. It’s an unacceptable outcome given it can take companies up to five years to get projects through approval processes to commission.”