Icon’s fracking bid

A QUEENSLAND-based company is securing land in Wellington Shire to use a technique known as fracking to search for natural gas.

Icon Energy was granted a petroleum exploration permit from the Department of Primary Industry in 2010 in the onshore section of the oil and gas rich Gippsland Basin with a view to supply gas-fired power stations.

From geological and geophysical desktop studies, as well as existing seismic and well data obtained through the DPI, Icon Energy determined the potential for gas within shale formations.

In a presentation to Wellington Shire Council last week, Icon commercial manager Richard Holliday said the company was finalising compensation agreements with landowners in Woodside and Darriman to drill two wells and begin hydraulic fracturing, more commonly known as fracking, to extract the gas.

Mr Holliday claimed the fracking process presented minimal risk to the area.

“There’s been hundreds and hundreds of fracks in Australia for over 25 years without environmental harm from one incidence of fracking,” he said.

“Fracking requires an additional level of environmental and operational approvals by the Department of Primary Industries and the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

“Materials used in the fracking process include 99.51 per cent of water and sand and 0.49 per cent of compounds in minute quantities which assist in carry the sand through the cracks created in the seams.

“The compound more specific to the natural gas industry has many common uses such as swimming pool chemicals, toothpaste, ice cream, food additives, detergent and soap.”

Mr Holliday said the number of fracks would depend on core sample results.

Icon, Mr Holliday stressed, did not have a licence to explore for the more controversial coal seam gas, instead looking for natural gas in the deeper shale formations.

“Natural gas is found at depths of 2500 metres approximately, well below the aquifers, coal seam gas is found closer to the surface, between 500 and 1000 metres, within some of the aquifers,” he said.

Exploration will take place 24 hours a day over at least a month at one of the wells before the site, including rig, campsite, road and water collection pond, are relocated to other well. After the area is used, it will be rehabilitated.

The well will be cased in cement, to ensure the aquifer and well are protected.

Mr Holliday said more natural gas was required as Victoria’s current gas reserve would be depleted by 2025, with its demand for the resource to double by 2030.

“As it takes between five and 10 years to develop a full commercial gas field, it’s opportune that we are exploring for natural gas at this time,” he said.

“One gas well, over its 20-year life, will deliver the same amount of energy as 85,000 tonnes of coal.

“Gas burns 70 per cent less CO2 than coal, the carbon tax and the big picture is to replace black and brown coal-fired power stations with gas-generated power stations.

“One would like to think that in Victoria, rather than building additional brown coal power stations, that we can find enough gas supply and enter into an industrial contract

for a gas-fired power station and reduce emissions,” Mr Holliday said.

As well as exploring for gas using fracking, Icon will also undertake a seismic survey of the area, using cabling and three trucks over 400 kilometres of roads. The company is seeking approval from VicRoads, DPI and council to use the roads.

Mr Holliday said the seismic survey would give a snapshot of the geology under the surface and use rock properties to identify more opportunities for exploration.

“It’s a pathway for us and gives us a better roadmap of where ultimately we’ll be,” he said.

Mr Holliday said the short term aim was to link the gas into the distribution network, which would help fund further exploration.

“If in five to 10 years’ time, if there is a commercially viable gas field, we do have opportunities to export gas, but that is a long way down the track.

“There is no export facilities in this region, but there is an opportunity,” he said.

While specialised drilling and site crew will be sourced from elsewhere, Mr Holliday said local people would be employed at a regional office in Sale or Yarram should the exploration be successful.

Should gas be found in other areas within Icon’s tenement, which also includes around Yarram and Port Albert, they may also be explored.