A mining company has hit back at claims the search for onshore gas in the Northern Territory is a veiled attempt to drill for oil.
On the eve of another anti-fracking rally in Darwin this Sunday, Lock the Gate Alliance claimed mining companies were intending to frack for oil.
Companies such as Origin Energy and Santos have begun exploratory programs again in the Beetaloo Basin south of Katherine after the NT Government last year removed a moratorium on development of onshore shale gas industries.
The companies say they have already found enormous supplies of the gas locked in shale rock deep underground but had no intentions of drilling for oil.
Lock the Gate’s Jesse Hancock today said the mining companies wanted to extract “liquids rich gas”.
“Fracking companies can call it by any name they want but it’s shale oil, and oil presents a much greater risk to communities, especially in terms of transportation,” Mr Hancock said.
“This is a case of resource companies and the NT Gunner Government pulling the wool over the eyes of NT residents.
“Communities at the frontline of this activity in the Beetaloo Basin - in the heart of the NT - are rightfully anxious about what this latest development means for them.”
But Origin Energy said the group had simply misunderstood the phrase “liquids rich gas”.
“Origin is not drilling or fracking for oil. There is no basis to these claims,” Origin senior external affairs manager Chris Zipf said.
“Liquids rich gas’ is gas that presents in the form of a liquid as it comes to the surface as pressure and temp changes – not oil.
“The rigorous processes and controls we have in place – including those being applied following the Pepper Inquiry - are no different whether the source is predominantly natural gas or ‘dry gas’ - or liquid rich.
“The liquids are the next step up in the molecule chain - ethane and propane which is LPG or bottled gas; butane which is used as fuel in lighters or condensate.
“As the gas comes towards the surface the pressure and temperature changes. The heavier molecules above methane can either stay as gas or begin to form a liquid (hence the term ‘liquids rich natural gas’), which is clear and not black like oil.
“A simple analogy would be a hot shower, the steam (gas) condenses to water (liquids) as it cools.
“Gas being produced in off-shore fields and processed in the NT are liquids rich.”
The NT Government says it is implementing all 135 recommendations of the independent fracking inquiry.
“We have accepted the key finding of the report – that if all the recommendations are implemented the risk from fracking can be reduced to an acceptable level,” a government spokeswoman said.
“Our reforms will protect the environment and all other jobs that rely on it.
“The inquiry did consider risks from oil production, and their findings are clearly discussed in chapter six.
“The inquiry found that the Beetaloo sub-basin has been insufficiently explored for oil and is unlikely to be economically feasible as an oil development.
“The panel also found if that if oil production occurred, ‘it would not materially affect the risk assessments and recommendations contained in the report’.”
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