Gas drilling is wound back

THE companies seeking an extension of time to explore for coal seam gas on Sydney's southern fringe say they will drill only two wells, even though the original approval was for 16.

Assessing arguments: Members of the audience at last week's public meeting. Picture: James Alcock

Assessing arguments: Members of the audience at last week's public meeting. Picture: James Alcock

Tom Fontaine, managing director of Magnum Gas & Power, said this would enable them to assess whether there was enough potential gas for a project.

Mr Fontaine, whose company is in a joint venture with Apex Energy, revealed the "redesigned" data collection proposal at last week's public meeting, called by the Planning Assessment Commission, and confirmed it later to the Leader.

He said the joint venture was seeking only an extension of time for an approval that had already been granted.

"If there is potential, the approval process starts over and will be subject to all the technical, regulatory and community scrutiny to determine if the project can proceed," he said.

Mr Fontaine said the boreholes would be almost identical to hundreds of others drilled by coal mining companies, "except much safer".

He dismissed fears of methane emissions, saying there would be less than was occurring already in the heavily mined area.

Despite what some groups were saying, he said the company would "never frac [fracture] at this project, and there are no toxic chemicals on-site, ever".

Mr Fontaine said the joint venture was supported independent studies.


Heathcote MP Lee Evans was among the large number of speakers who argued against an extension of time for the exploration.

‘‘Water is sacrosanct, and that has always been my position,’’ he said later.

‘‘They might start with only a couple of wells, but if the exploration is successful, it will lead to 120 wells.’’

Mr Evans said he also had concerns about the financial soundness of 

the project.

‘‘If they have only managed to do one well in the allotted time, I don’t think they have the capacity,’’ he said.


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