The first application for shale gas exploration drilling has been made to the NT Government.
The exploration will include a limited fracking tests called a Diagnostic Fracture Injection.
Separate applications for permits will be need for full-blown fracking of the wells.
The public has 28 days to comment on the proposal by Santos, with comments accepted from tomorrow.
Origin Energy and Santos have already received NT Government approval to install groundwater monitoring bores near potential exploration sites in the Beetaloo Sub-Basin.
Their first targets for shale gas exploration are both east of Daly Waters.
The government has accepted the first Environment Management Plan for assessment since it controversially lifted the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing last year.
You can view the EMP process here.
Santos wants to build exploration petroleum wells at two spots about 350km south-east of Katherine in the Beetaloo sub-basin or 100km east is the McArthur River Mine site.
Temporary campsites will be built at the sites, Santos said.
The mining company said it had held two recent meetings with the Northern Land Council to update the council on its plans.
The EMP covers the proposed drilling program that would be undertaken over the dry season over 17 weeks including: vertical and horizontal drilling at two wells, well integrity monitoring evaluation, suspension or decommissioning, rehabilitation.
Santos said gas exploration targets shale sequences within the Beetaloo Sub-basin comprises a thick sequence of flat-lying mudstone and sandstone formations which is estimated to reach 5000 metres thick in the centre of the basin.
"The Beetaloo Sub-basin is an ancient Proterozoic sedimentary basin that has been relatively tectonically quiescent throughout its long history, as evidenced by the lack of significant structural deformation," Santos said.
"The principle exploration target within the basin is the Velkerri Formation, which is thought to have been deposited (plus or minus) 1.4 billion years ago.
"This comprises intervals of high organic content fine-grained rocks ("shales") contained within clay-rich and organically-lean layers.
"These clay rich, organically lean layers act as impermeable aquitards to fluid migration (as evidenced by the organic-enriched layers still containing gas hundreds of millions of years after it was generated).
"They also provide effective barriers to fracture growth during hydraulic fracture stimulation operations. Given the lack of major faults and structures across the deeper areas of the Beetaloo Sub-basin there is a low geohazard risk associated with through-going faults, therefore a low likelihood of the perceived risk of communication to shallow aquifers occurring."
The EMP is an activity specific plan that must show all environmental impacts and risks have been considered and appropriate environmental management practices implemented.
The Government has promised to implement 135 recommendations of the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing.
The Petroleum (Environment) Regulations require the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources to publish an EMP for public comment, where the activity involves drilling of a petroleum well or hydraulic fracturing.
Interested parties may submit written comments on the EMP during the consultation period and the Minister will consider these comments in deciding whether to approve an EMP.
All EMP decisions will be published on the Department of Environment and Natural Resources website, including a statement of reasons outlining why the decision was made.
Environment and Natural Resources Minister Eva Lawler said: "This Government is making it easier to invest in the Territory as these reforms will ensure our unique environment and the jobs that rely on it are protected, while also providing further opportunities for investment and new jobs for the Territory - protecting the environment creates jobs, and good environmental policy is smart economic policy.
"I thank Santos for submitting its EMP and encourage the community to have a look at it and provide their comments so I can make a fully informed decision.
"Providing the community with a legislative right to have their say on the approval of an EMP relating to drilling or fracking will help restore trust and transparency."
An Onshore Gas Non-Compliance Hotline has also been established as a way for people to report potential non-compliance of the onshore gas industry.
The 24-hour toll-free hotline number is 1800 413 889. Calls can be made anonymously.
Protect Country Alliance condemned the decision to accept the EMP before it said the necessary Codes of Practice were finalised.
The EMP, if approved, could pave the way for risky onshore shale fracking operations in the Territory, it claimed.
PCA spokesman Graeme Sawyer urged Territorians to write to the government and reject the proposal.
Mr Sawyer also questioned the timing of the announcement, which just happened to have occurred on the same day that the Federal Election was called.
"This is just the icing on the cake of what has been an incredibly rushed and weak approach to serious environmental reform," Mr Sawyer said.
"The Pepper report revealed Territorians overwhelmingly do not support the creation of a fracking industry in their backyards, yet we have seen relentless lobbying from pro-fracking industry, urging the government to ignore the will of the people.
"As a result, the government is rushing to tick the final boxes so companies like Santos are able to begin fracking exploration as soon as possible.
"The EMP should be based on Codes of Practice that have gone through a similar process, but these codes of practice are not yet finalised. The public and some government departments haven't even had a chance to comment of the Codes yet.
"The NT government is not sticking to its own rules.
"Given the Codes of Practice are out for comment at the same time, it's a farcical process and shows the Government is not serious about open and transparent communication with the community, especially Indigenous groups on the frontline of these fracking projects."
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