Anti-fracking Groups Target Kimberley Gas

Environment groups and pastoralists have called for a ban on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, in the Canning Basin, one of the world’s largest onshore shale gas reserves.

But the oil and gas industry is trying to assure the public that the fracking process is well-regulated and not harmful to the environment.

It follows fierce opposition to the exploration and production of unconventional gas on Australia’s east coast amid concerns about water contamination.

A total of 114 submissions have been made to a WA parliamentary inquiry into the implications for WA of hydraulic fracturing for unconventional gas.

The department of mines says fracking has been carried out in WA for more than 50 years.

But the Wilderness Society is worried about the potential scale of the practise and says the recent proposal has been introduced into WA with little consultation.

“We recommend that the committee call for a permanent ban on fracking in WA,” the Wilderness Society’s WA state co-ordinator Peter Robertson said in a statement.

He said fracking risks included pollution of groundwater aquifers, depletion of groundwater, land subsidence and destruction of ecosystems with the construction of drill sites, ponds and hundreds of kilometres of roads and pipelines.

The Victorian government has banned fracking until 2015 while thousands of people have urged the NSW government to ban fracking near drinking water catchment areas.

In its submission the WA Department of Health said there was potential for contamination of drinking water supplies.

Oil and gas explorer Buru Energy recently engaged international water consulting and engineering firm MWH Global as it looks for gas resources in the Canning Basin.

Buru, which has invited the parliamentary committee to visit its exploration sites, said it would draw on the expertise of MWH in water resource management projects following work in the shale and tight gas sector in the USA and Canada.

Mitsubishi has committed about $60 million for exploration with Buru Energy while ConocoPhillips plans to spend more than $120 million on seismic testing in the basin’s southeast corner.

Last year the WA government introduced a bill allowing Buru and Mitsubishi to continue exploration, develop a gas pipeline to the Pilbara and give first dibs for any gas discovered to the domestic market.

The first parliamentary hearing will be held on Friday, February 7 in Perth.

By Kim Christian