When the Victorian Government announced a ban on fracking, they also placed a moratorium on conventional gas until 2020. This would allow the Resource Department to develop the Victorian Gas Program (VGP) which is ‘delivering geoscience and environmental research and related activities, including community engagement, resource planning and regulatory improvements for onshore conventional gas, offshore gas and underground gas storage. It is investigating Victoria’s gas prospectivity and the issues associated with gas exploration and development to inform future decisions by the Victorian Government’.
The VGP is overseen by Victoria’s Lead Scientist, Dr Amanda Caples and a Stakeholder Advisory Panel, made up of farmers, industry, local government and the community.
In January this year the first interim report was released from the VGP reporting that the most likely estimated onshore gas is in the Port Campbell area and noted that –
At this stage, the Geological Survey of Victoria has a ‘working estimate’ for conventional gas resources of around 110 petajoules for the area around Port Campbell, based on the O’Brien & Thomas (2007) study. The Geological Survey of Victoria considers this area to be most prospective for new conventional gas discoveries. The Gippsland Basin is considered to be less prospective for commercial-scale discoveries of onshore conventional gas, pending further geoscience investigations.
It appears that the potential for onshore conventional gas is relatively small compared to past production and known offshore gas reserves in Bass Strait.
It is important to note that the current estimates for onshore conventional gas resources are based on desktop assessments. Whilst gas might be present it may not be able to be extracted in a way that is safe, technically possible or commercially viable.
The reported 110 petajoules is ‘worth’ around 7 months of gas.
Other reports of gas reserves are desktop studies that indicate unconventional or fracking would be needed.
Friends of the Earth’s initial response asked, ‘why would we jeopardise farmland for 7 months of gas? We’ll be working to see the moratorium extended beyond 2020’
In further reporting from the Weekly Times (17th Jan) the Victorian Farmers Federation were quoted in saying ‘that’s (7 months) is not worth risking any agriculture for… but if they find more, we need to know how it will be regulated. The last thing we want is a free for all’.
The VGP will also be investigating –
- Supporting commercial exploration for further discoveries of gas off Victoria’s coast to help increase gas supply
- Investigating the opportunities for further underground gas storage in the onshore Otway geological basin to help secure more reliable gas supplies and to mitigate short term price peaks, particularly during any interruptions in the gas supply system.
- Identify risks, benefits and impacts of onshore conventional gas to inform future government decisions
- Geoscientific studies on onshore conventional gas to determine resource estimates • Environmental studies related to onshore conventional gas exploration and production
- Community and stakeholder engagement
- Land resource planning for onshore conventional gas, subject to the study results
- Policy, legislative and regulatory reform as relevant
Water and air testing will be conducted throughout the study to establish baseline data and include environmental studies. Community engagement has been initiated with successful visits from the Lead Scientist and we hope this will continue into the future.
In the coming month and years till 2020, we will be watching carefully the Victorian gas Program and the results of further scientific studies.
We understand the need to have concrete data to counteract current speculation and political pressure to lift moratoriums and bans, but we do believe this programs money could be better spent. If this study is to of any benefit to communities, it will be to understand our geology, water and environment on a more detailed scale.