Don't pay so you can read it. Pay so everyone can!

Don't pay so you can read it.
Pay so everyone can!

Santos edges in on fracking the Liverpool Plains despite repeated denials

by Callum Foote | Jan 27, 2023 | Energy & Environment, Latest Posts

Santos is denying it, but local farmers on the pristine Liverpool Plains tell a different story. Santos is poised to start fracking in the Gunnedah Basin, Callum Foote reports.

During Santos’ 2018 annual general meeting, Tamber Springs farmer and former Gunnedah Shire councillor David Quince, asked Santos CEO Kevin Gallagher what Santos’s plans were with the petroleum exploration areas it controls on the Liverpool Plains.

Gallagher’s response was that “What I said last year, and I will reiterate it again this year, we have no plans to drill wells in the Liverpool Plains. The Narrabri Gas Project is contained to areas that you are familiar with and that’s all I can say. Our plans are simply not to drill in the Liverpool Plains and the fact that the permit area that we have covers the Liverpool Plains is something that we have to live with. We can’t cut it off, it’s there but our plans are to the north of that as you are well aware.”

However, Santos’ acquisition of the Hunter Gas Pipeline in August last year drew the company one step closer to doing what they never said they would do, but what farmers have long suspected, frack the pristine farmland of the Liverpool plains.

The Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs) that lie under the Liverpool plains and slopes are PELs 1 and 12. These tenements are held by a wholly owned subsidiary of Carbon Minerals, Australian Coalbed Methane (ACM).

According to Carbon Minerals’ latest annual report, the PELs 1 and 12 are subject “to a Joint Venture with Santos” with ACM holding a 35% interest in the PELs and Santos holding the remaining 65%. Santos is the project operator.

Multi-well pilot

In April last year, the NSW government renewed the licence that Santos and ACM have over the PELs for six years until April 2028.

As a part of the renewal, Santos must reactivate a multi-well pilot in the region and conduct geological studies with the joint venture partners holding a technical committee meeting on 6 June 2022 “to further discuss the planned work program and budget for on-ground activities in Petroleum Exploration Licence (PEL) 1 and PEL 12 during the calendar year 2022.”

Santos and CEO Kevin Gallagher have yet to respond to queries regarding whether the group has changed his position on Santos’ plans in the Liverpool plains.

Says Quince, “To state that Santos’ ‘plans are simply not to drill in the Liverpool Plains’ is simply not credible. Carbon Mineral’s Annual Financial Report for the year ended 31st December 2017, page 2 reports “The Group’s planned exploration activities are currently awaiting resolution of some of the community concerns and pending finalisation of the government regulatory framework in relation to the group’s activities.”

Based on advice received by the group from the project operator (Santos) proposed exploration activity will recommence in the near future.

Quince believes that Gallagher has misled his shareholders “Santos is an old Australian company and there are probably a lot of elders and retail investors who have shares in Santos and they probably support drilling in the Pilliga, not knowing the ins and outs, but they probably would be mortified to think of drilling on the Liverpool slopes and plains, Sydney’s major food bowl.”

Farmers oppose seismic testing by Santos

In the 2010s, Santos contracted the advisory services of global investment bank Moelis & Company to determine the level of risk and farmer resistance to the development of coal seam gas (CSG) operations in NSW.

Correspondence from one of the Moelis researchers, Australian-trained hydrogeologist Gundi Royle, shows that Santos has always had a significant interest in the Liverpool Plains.

According to Royle, in 2013 at least 14% of Santos’s LNG ambitions lay in the Gunnedah basin, underneath the Liverpool plains.

Gunnedah remains top priority and they are confident in the market – Gunnedah us 14% of their reserves. If they cannot use that that would be a blow.

Moelis & Company researcher, Gundi Royle

Royle was vocally against Santos’ operations in the region, making a number of media appearances around the early 2010s voicing her opposition.

Bankers not comfortable

In correspondence obtained by MWM, Royle tears into Santos’s managerial team, saying that Moelis is uncomfortable over Santo’s gold-plating of costs at the Gladstone LNG plant stating that “This is one of the teams that wasted billions of dollars at Gladstone in the knowledge that these gold-plated costs can be passed on to customers who are now baulking. The argument championed by APPEA and [Santos] that farmers and ‘anarchists’ (the Federal Minister) are causing a gas shortage is laughable and having seen the price, we are waiting for the fall – again.”

MWM has not been able to contact Royle for additional comments.

Mullaley Gas and Pipeline Accord spokesperson and beef farmer Margaret Fleck said that the Hunter Gas Pipeline represents Santos’s CSG ambitions in the Liverpool plains, stating that “It is totally inappropriate and downright dangerous for any company to build a high-pressure gas pipeline through the vertosol soils of the Liverpool Plains. These soils crack and swell, and they also happen to be some of the best soils for food and fibre production in the state.”

This also proves Santos’ intent to rip apart the Liverpool Plains with hundreds of new gas wells, with the company recently announcing plans to conduct seismic testing in the world-renowned food-bowl.

Pipeline Rumble: farmers the final line of defence in Narrabri fight over Santos gas fracking

Callum Foote was a reporter for Michael West Media for four years.

Don't pay so you can read it. Pay so everyone can!

Don't pay so you can read it.
Pay so everyone can!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This