Anti-frac group lodges protest over Waitisa Phase 2

ANTI-fraccing group Lock the Gate has lodged an appeal against Phase 2 of the Waitsia gas field owned by operator Mitsui and Beach Energy in the onshore Perth Basin.
Anti-frac group lodges protest over Waitisa Phase 2 Anti-frac group lodges protest over Waitisa Phase 2 Anti-frac group lodges protest over Waitisa Phase 2 Anti-frac group lodges protest over Waitisa Phase 2 Anti-frac group lodges protest over Waitisa Phase 2

Waitsia field

Helen Clark


The activist group submitted its appeal application to the Western Australian Appeals Convenor with the intention to ensure no part of the project or any future phase will see fraccing in order to reassure local communities worried about the practice. 
The Environmental Protection Authority recommended the environmental plan September 7. 
What the groups wants is an overall pledge that fraccing will not be undertaken at the site now, or in the future past the Phase 2 development. The EPA did not assess future plans, only what was submitted in the EP for the phase. 
The EPA recommended the environmental plan put forward by the two proponents on September 7 and said "hydraulic fracture stimulation does not form part of this proposal, which will further develop the Waitsia gas field". 
The second phase of the project will see the majority of gas from the deep conventional targets the Kingia and High Cliff sandstones developed and sent to the North West Shelf to be exported as LNG over a five-year period to backfill the declining facility. 
Last week Western Australian premier Mark McGowan and energy minister Bill Johnston pushed ahead with legal requirements to overhaul the state's energy laws to allow for unconventional exploration and production.
The Western Australian state government said on September 10 it had managed to implement five out of the 20 implementation actions to legalise fraccing. 
The 20 implementation actions are based on 44 recommendations from the independent scientific panel inquiry into fraccing. 
One of several actions to be implemented was the development of a cost recovery program to fund auditing and regulation of fraccing. Oil and gas companies will be charged a fee to fund an independent regulator which will make sure industry abides by legislation. 
This also required legislation that meant all oil and gas proposals involving fraccing needed to be approved by the Environmental Protection Authority. 
The practice is still not technically legal. 
However Lock the Gate is doubtful. 
"Local landholders are not convinced by certain stages of the process," spokesperson Simone Simone Van Hattem said. 
She noted the Waitsia partners had envisioned a further stage of the process where fraccing had not been explicitly ruled out. These would be separate to the plan recommended by the EPA two weeks ago. 
The issue for landholders is simply uncertainty, she said. 
"They could still apply to frac (future) these wells... and it leaves all this uncertainty for local landholders so if there are no plans then why not just rule that out completely?
Her group wants the EPA to put in a condition that no wells in the area will be fracced at any stage. 
Under state government laws fraccing is technically allowed for most permits with an unconventional license held prior to the 2018 moratorium on the practice but given the huge flows from deeper conventional targets the Kingia and High Cliff sandstones few in industry have ever been of the view Waitisa would need to be fracced. 
"They'd (landholders) would like the area to come under a ban again, there's a reason the government has lifted the ban on this region but not in the southwest or other areas. And even if it's years down the track, it keeps this uncertainty for years to come," she said. 
"We know Senecio-2 was fracced," she said. The well was drilled in 2006 and an appeal against its fraccing lodged by the Conservation Council of Western Australia in 2011. 
Waitsia was actually discovered by former operator AWE, later taken over by Mitsui, during appraisal drilling of the Senecio gas field when the work was ahead of schedule and under budget. 
The decision was made to drill deeper to investigate downhole gas shows in the Kingia Sandstone, a play that had never worked in more than two dozen well penetrations in the Perth Basin.
However the huge flows from Waitsia were entirely conventional and the field was certified by RISC in Perth on this basis. 
"My understanding is that it's still just based on conventional (gas)," Martin Wilkes of RISC told Energy News today, but pointed out it had been three years since his company had had any involvement in the development.