The first new fracking well in the Northern Territory has run into trouble and had to be plugged.
Origin Energy's massive Kyalla Well looking for shale gas in the Beetaloo Basin had to be shut down after "operational challenges".
Origin joint venture business partner Falcon Oil and Gas issued a statement overnight said it had successfully drilled its exploration well vertically but had problems when it went sideways with a horizontal drill, a key part of fracking operations.
Origin wanted to drill the horizontal well between one to two kilometres in length but struck trouble after 700 metres.
"... operational challenges were experienced in maintaining adequate clean hole conditions and stability over portions of the horizontal production hole section appropriate to complete operations," Origin said.
"The initial horizontal production hole section will now be plugged in line with regulatory requirements. This will be followed by sidetracking drilling a new horizontal production line section."
Katherine Times understands the vertical well shaft is not being plugged and can still be used.
The company said the failure was "not uncommon in an exploration drilling program such as this".
But anti-fracking groups have called for the entire operation to be shut down until the failure is more fully reviewed.
Graeme Sawyer from NT Protect Country Alliance said the NT public deserved more than the scant detail and industry-speak contained within Falcon's statement.
"It could be that the driller can't keep the borehole open and that the rock is collapsing around the drill bit," he said.
"Risks will increase if Origin and Falcon push ahead to frack shale rock from a different horizontal well nearby.
"A halt on all activity and a full investigation of this incident should now be required until all the issues are made clear."
A NT Department of Primary Industry and Resources spokeswoman said Origin advised the department, as the regulator, it had an operational problem with their current exploration drill hole.
"Having assessed the current operation, Origin have decided to abandon the section of drill hole and drill a new horizontal hole," the spokeswoman said.
"As regulators, DPIR was informed of the planned abandonment of the section, as they need to comply with our regulations.
"The decision by Origin to hydraulic fracture this well will be made once the exploration drilling has been completed."
Falcon Oil and Gas CEO Philip O'Quigley said:"While it is unfortunate to have encountered these operation difficulties, which will add to the time and the cost to drill the horizontal section, the joint venture partners remains as optimistic about the potential of the Kyalla and we look forward to updating the market with further updates in due course."
Origin has exploration permits over 18,500 square kilometres of the NT, and along with Santos, has rushed to drill for gas since a three-year moratorium on exploration was lifted.
The government even rushed out a media release on this same Kyalla well back in October saying a milestone had been reached as it was the first to be drilled.
Origin and Falcon Oil and Gas plan to try again with their horizontal drill "within the next month".
"Fracture stimulation activity will only occur after the successful completion of drilling and the integrity of the well is tested and verified."
Protect Country Alliance's Mr Sawyer said this troubling event was yet more evidence that fracking was too risky for the Territory.
"It is critical no more approvals are made until full scientific studies are completed and the risks are fully investigated."
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