Shaun Leyland – 6 May 2014

To The Commissioner,

Thank you for inviting submissions from the public. I have lived in the Northern Territory for over 30 years and in that time been involved with a number of government agencies, including the Mines Department.

Drilling through geological strata is expensive and a technically challenging business which the oil industry has been doing for some 155 years now. Despite the wealth of experience gained in this time the industry has repeatedly demonstrated the inability to control the extraction process. Two recent examples of things going wrong are the Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster and closer to home, the Montera incident in the Timor Sea, an uncontrolled discharge that took some 74 days before it was stopped. Both these involved off shore drilling and attracted some interest. How many similar accidents are happening on-shore that goes unreported?

I believe that the technique of fracturing oil-bearing strata was developed within the oil industry as a means to release more oil from the source rock. Oil is typically a dense medium, less migratory than gas and possibly responds well to the fracturing techniques however the information coming out of USA and NSW in relation to fracturing for shale gas and other gases is frightening and suggests that possibly the technique is not as suitable for gas as it appears to be for oil

Many of these reports claim water contamination as a result of “fracking”. Even if some of these reports can be discounted as “alarmist” there are still sufficient to cause concern and I would strongly recommend that the monetary gains (local, nationally and internationally) be ignored for the moment so that an unbiased and independent organisation can examine both the fracturing process and the contamination claims. The resources have been locked in the rocks for millions of years and there is no real immediate need to extract them. There is time for a review of the industry, its methods and possible ongoing affects to be carried out in a calm and sensible manner.

Our greatest and most valuable resource is water and for the last 200 years this country has been peppered with drill holes in a constant search for it. Add to this the tens of thousands of drill holes sunk in searching for minerals and one can only presume that the integrity of the geological strata has already been compromised. Many of these drill holes are unrecorded or forgotten and to begin fracturing strata to release gas in the belief that those releases can be controlled is unrealistic.

I applaud the NT Government for having the courage to place things on hold and call for this inquiry but strongly believe that it needs to be taken to another level.

I would like to suggest the following for your consideration;

We can’t exist without water. When things go wrong it won’t be a simple matter of capping a blowout. The contamination will be irreversible and will effectively sterilise that aquifer/artesian system and everything linked to it.

At the moment we can make do without gas and there is time to examine the risks and benefits. Mining has a very long history of environmental carnage and the oil and gas industry, despite all care and good intentions has repeatedly shown that things go wrong. We need our water and it needs to be recognised as a sacred resource, to be managed accordingly and not jeopardised in any manner. The oil and gas is also a valuable resource and possibly better conserved for our own future use. When the time comes, when we truly need it, the technology will be available that can safely extract it. The Northern Territory has been identified as having the capacity to provide most, if not all of Australia’s food requirements. Hydraulic Fracturing in its current form is an unacceptable risk. Please don’t allow the ‘Territory to turn into a sterile wasteland.

Shaun Leyland