Kimberley hydraulic fracturing project’s exemption from gas export ban raises concerns at Conservation Council

A hydraulic fracturing project in Kimberley, Wash., Received only the second exemption from the state’s gas export ban.

Introduced last year, WA’s national gas policy change prevents gas mined ashore from being shipped to eastern states or overseas.

The only other exemption from the policy was given to the Kerry Stokes-backed Waitsia Project, with Prime Minister Mark McGowan defending the decision on the grounds that Waitsia was a ‘dumpster’ development that would create hundreds of jobs.

By the time the policy was changed, the Valhalla project developed by Bennett Resources had been submitted to WA’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), with plans for six wells on the Noonkanbah station near Fitzroy Crossing.

But a recent announcement from Texas-based Black Mountain, which owns Bennett Resources, revealed that it has now obtained an exemption from export restrictions.

This was the first application for a hydraulic fracturing project since the state government lifted the ban on the practice in 2018.

The latest EPA document, released Aug. 4, reveals that Bennett Resources now plans to construct up to 20 “exploration and assessment wells” at 10 sites.

Concerns about “very large hydraulic fracturing projects”

The exemption shocked the WA Conservation Council, with the group saying it went against what was promised at the end of the fracking moratorium.

“It was lifted after an investigation found that any gas fracking would likely only be on a small scale and only for the domestic market, and therefore have very limited environmental impact as the size of these developments would be very small.” , said Board Director Piers Verstegen.

Conservation Council director Piers Verstegen said the project itself should not go ahead.(

ABC News: James Carmody

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“We raised our concerns about this at the time and said we believed this was not correct and that these fracking companies would try to build very large fracking projects to access the export market. .

“This seems to be exactly what is happening now.”

The WA government said the exemption was granted because the project would help build gas pipelines to connect the area to WA’s larger grid.

“This basic pipeline infrastructure will support further development of the Canning Basin and a new gas supply to the Western Australian market,” a government spokesperson said.

“The project has the potential to provide a range of benefits for the Kimberley and Western Australia, including regional jobs and business opportunities, royalties and domestic gas supply.”

He said the project was subject to Black Mountain’s acceptance of a domestic gas commitment agreement with the state.

Gas commitment required: Cook

State Development, Employment and Trade Minister Roger Cook confirmed that part of the reason the exemption was granted was that there was no existing pipeline to proximity to the project location.

Roger Cook wears a blue suit and red tie, standing in front of microphones speaking to the media.
Roger Cook says it’s important for Kimberley to benefit from the proposed fracking project.(

ABC News: Rhiannon Shine

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“We said to [Bennett Resources/Black Mountain] … If they need to export some of their initial production from that in order to make the project a success, then we would be willing to consider that, ”he told ABC Goldfields.

“But we also said that it would be on the basis that they engage in long-term domestic gas deals, but also that they build pipeline infrastructure to make sure the rest of the Kimberley benefits from this. particular development. “

The government said the project would still need to get all relevant approvals, including environmental ones, before going ahead.

Sacrificial heritage area warning

The Conservation Council also expressed concerns about the potential environmental impact of the project.

“It’s in the Kimberley, which is an area of ​​incredible biodiversity, cultural values ​​and landscape values,” said Mr Verstegen.

“It’s a listed national heritage and just shouldn’t be sacrificed to an industrial fracking zone for the benefit of a gas export industry that doesn’t really benefit Western Australia.

When the project was submitted to the EPA last year, Ashely Zumwalt-Forbes, CEO of Black Mountain, said the proposal had the support of local traditional owners.

“Thomas Skinner, a member of the Yungngora Traditional Owners Group, had a great influence in lifting the initial moratorium and the people who actually live….

She previously told the ABC that lifting the moratorium would open up economic opportunities for the local population and would be welcomed by the community as long as companies acted responsibly.

“The last thing we need for the climate”

Mr Verstegen said it was the wrong decision on all fronts.

People hold banners opposing fracking.
Kimberley environmentalists have already rallied around the Black Mountain project.(

Provided: Kimberley Surroundings

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“It is almost unbelievable to think that at a time when the world is turning to renewable energy, and at a time when we are talking about new and stronger commitments that need to be made on climate change, that the government of l “State is even considering a new giant gas basin in the Canning Basin,” he said.

“It’s the last thing we need for the climate.

“Environmental groups will fight projects like this every step of the way to make sure they don’t come to fruition because we need to protect our climate and we need to protect our natural places like the Kimberley from this kind of development. “

The EPA approval process is not expected to be completed until early 2023.

Black Mountain has been approached for comment.

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