Australia’s largest east coast gas producer has sought federal environmental approval to drill up to 7,700 new gas wells in Queensland, prompting concern from environmentalists due to the project’s sheer size and its proximity to two national parks.
Australia Pacific LNG – a joint venture between Origin, ConocoPhillips and Sinopec – has lodged a referral under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to expand its “Gas Supply Security Project” and drill across an additional 476,492ha of central and south-west Queensland.
The relevant tenements include land bordering both Carnarvon national park and Expedition national park. Referral documents show the proposal would potentially impact 26 plant and animal species and six threatened ecological communities.
Two environmental groups, Lock the Gate Alliance and Don’t Frack the Outback, say the plan would “transform rural localities and communities into industrial gasfields”.
“I could not believe it when I heard about this application,” Leanne Brummell, spokeswoman for Don’t Frack the Outback, said.
“This expansion demonstrates the insidious nature of unconventional gas – once a company starts pockmarking the landscape with gas wells, it doesn’t stop.
“Landowners in this region have spent years battling drought, and they will now be forced to negotiate with gas companies over access to water.”
In its referral documents, APLNG says a justification for the expansion includes predictions by the Australian Energy Market Operator of a gas supply shortfall from 2024. Aemo’s most recent “gas statement of opportunities” provided an improved outlook for gas supply, based on the impact of a new import terminal at Port Kembla.
Lock the Gate Queensland spokeswoman Ellie Smith said the most recent Aemo report showed there was “absolutely no justification for new fracking gasfields that destroy water and farmland”.
APLNG’s referral documents also propose using horizontal or directional drilling to allow pipelines to go “under threatened ecological communities, threatened flora, threatened fauna habitat and migratory fauna habitat”. Pipelines would not be allowed under national parks.
“While [APLNG] may not technically be able to drill within Carnarvon Gorge national park, it will be permitted to destroy many thousands of hectares of surrounding land that currently supports threatened animals like the koala,” Smith said.
The referral seeks permission for a “maximum development scenario” that would involve 7,700 wells, each requiring a construction footprint of about 1.5ha, gas and water pipelines, gas processing facilities, water management facilities and supporting infrastructure.
In a statement, Origin Energy, the “upstream” operator of APLNG’s gasfields in Queensland, said the documents outlined maximum well numbers.
A company spokesman said that decisions about the eventual scope of the project – including about the requirement for…
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