Stakeholder advisory panel for onshore conventional gas

Dr Amanda Caples, Victoria's Lead Scientist

Communique 2

The Stakeholder Advisory Panel at the Otway Gas Processing Plant.
The Stakeholder Advisory Panel at the Otway Gas Processing Plant.
The second meeting of the Stakeholder Advisory Panel for onshore conventional gas studies was held in south-west Victoria on 9 and 10 November 2017 at Port Campbell and Camperdown and surrounding areas. This region of Victoria in the Otway geological basin is a focus of the Victorian Gas Program.

The meeting commenced on 9 November 2017 with a visit to the Otway Gas Plant and the Halladale and Speculant Well site, near Port Campbell.

The tour of Origin Energy's facility provided the Panel with a first-hand view of a gas processing plant. Origin Energy representatives explained how the facility's design and operational procedures ensure stringent health, safety and environment regulations are met.

The Panel then moved to Nirranda to see the Victorian Gas Program groundwater science team in action, sampling and recording trace chemistry at a groundwater monitoring bore as part of the environmental baseline studies of the Program. 

The Stakeholder Advisory Panel learning about the groundwater monitoring program.
The Stakeholder Advisory Panel learning about the groundwater monitoring program.
On 10 November 2017, the second day of the Stakeholder Advisory Panel's meeting was held in Camperdown.

The discussions covered progress reports on the geoscientific studies, environmental studies and community and stakeholder engagement to date.

The Panel received a briefing on the $1.62 million 3D geological models of the Otway Basin (onshore and offshore) that will be built and how they form the foundation for providing a gas resource estimate. The Panel heard that rock characterisation studies (including chemostratigraphy, porosity and permeability analysis) – key inputs into the 3D geological models – have also commenced.

The onshore environmental science project intends to sample over 100 deep groundwater bores and undertake an atmospheric methane survey to establish regional baseline conditions during 2017 and 2018. To date, 14 water bores have been sampled.

Later in 2018, the environmental program will also investigate existing exploration wells to determine more local baseline conditions.

The overview of the engagement program highlighted that over 80 individual engagements have occurred to date, covering local governments, gas explorers, gas users, regulators and environmental and community groups.  Most engagements have been one-on-one discussions and small group meetings. As the Geological Survey of Victoria Warrnambool team reaches full complement more sophisticated engagements and presentations will commence.

Five media articles about the Victorian Gas Program had been featured in newspapers in south-west and regional Victoria since the program was announced.  Additionally, while the Stakeholder Advisory Panel was in Camperdown, I gave an interview to ABC south west regional radio about the Panel's work.

The Panel's review of the projects to date is providing valuable insights and suggestions to ensure that the scientific studies are meeting the concerns and interests of the various stakeholders connected to the onshore conventional gas studies.

The next Stakeholder Advisory Panel meeting is scheduled for March 2018.

Communique 1

On 17 August 2017, I chaired the inaugural meeting of the Stakeholder Advisory Panel for onshore conventional gas studies, which is part of the State Government's Victorian Gas Program.

The Panel has been established by the [former] Minister for Resources, the Hon. Wade Noonan, to oversee the onshore conventional gas geoscientific and environmental studies over the next three years.

The role of the Panel is to provide the Minister for Resources with advice on the risks, benefits and impacts related to onshore conventional gas, with particular attention paid to social, economic and environmental factors.

The Panel will meet regularly over the next three years and includes a broad range of views, including farmers, industry, local government and the community. Panel members are able to provide feedback from the community and other stakeholders as the studies are undertaken.

The Panel members appointed are:

  • Mr Stephen Bell, Chief Executive Officer, Qenos
  • Mr Ben Davis, Secretary Australian Workers' Union Victorian Branch
  • Mr Gerald Leach, Chair of the Victorian Farmers' Federation Land Management Committee
  • Ms Alison Marchant, Secretary of Frack Free Moriac
  • Ms Linda French, Community Development Manager, Lattice Energy (formerly Origin Energy)
  • Mr Tennant Reed, Principal National Adviser, Public Policy, Australian Industry Group
  • Cr Joanne Beard, Mayor of Corangamite Shire and representative of  the Great South Coast Group
  • Mr Mark Wakeham, Chief Executive Officer, Environment Victoria

Minister Noonan welcomed the panel at its inaugural meeting. For the benefit of the panel, the Minister reiterated the course the Victorian Government had taken to legislate to permanently ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and coal seam gas, while extending the moratorium on onshore conventional gas to 30 June 2020. He said the moratorium would allow time for a scientific program to assess the potential onshore conventional gas resources of the State. The program will include environmental baseline studies and the community will be actively engaged  over the life of the studies. The results of the study and the panel's work would help guide future decisions about the prospects for onshore conventional gas exploration and development beyond the middle of 2020.

During the meeting, representatives from Geological Survey of Victoria (GSV), the Government's geoscience unit, gave a briefing on the schedule of onshore conventional gas geoscientific and environmental studies that will be conducted.

The focus of the studies will be on the Otway Basin in south west Victoria, particularly between Warrnambool and Port Campbell. The GSV has identified this area as having the greatest potential  for onshore conventional gas.  Some studies will be done in the Gippsland Basin, although based on existing data, the GSV considers this basin to be less likely to hold onshore conventional gas resources than the Otway Basin.

The geoscience studies will involve rock characterisation studies and analysis of current geoscience data. The results will assist in the development of three-dimensional models for the Otway and Gippsland geological basins. The environmental studies in the field will provide baseline data on groundwater chemistry and atmospheric conditions across the Otway and Gippsland basins.

GSV representatives emphasised the importance of community engagement to support the geoscientific and environmental studies. This included insights of engagement activity undertaken to date with local regional councils, community groups, peak industry bodies, water catchment management authorities, gas exploration companies and academics.

An important part of the community engagement program is to progressively provide the results of the studies to the public. Factual information from the studies will be provided to farmers, industry, local government and regional communities. A local team of geology specialists and a dedicated community engagement officer based in Warrnambool will ensure the community remains involved and informed about the studies. In practical terms, this means that there are people on the ground who can answer questions for local residents and landholders.

As Victoria's Lead Scientist and panel chair, I am looking forward to working with the Panel over the next three years.  I am sure the advice we will provide the Minister will assist the Government to make the best decisions possible about onshore conventional gas for all Victorians.

For more information visit the Victorian Gas Program on the Earth Resources website.

Page last updated: 28 November 2017