Carbon capture has ‘no adverse effects’ says habitat impact report

THE results of testing carried out after seismic testing at Golden Beach has determined that there were no adverse effects of the testing, despite some reduction in aquatic life in the testing area.

In February 2018, the CarbonNet Project undertook a 3D marine seismic survey in the offshore Gippsland Basin, near Golden Beach, in Bass Strait.

The environmental impacts and risks associated with the MSS were described in the Environment Plan that was accepted by Commonwealth and Victorian regulators.

Underwater sound and its impact on the marine environment was a key issue raised by stakeholders, particularly commercial fishermen.

In response, CarbonNet put in place initiatives to address concerns, including:

• Undertaking marine habitat assessments before and after the MSS;

• Establishing an independent Advisory Panel of fisheries experts to provide advice on the marine habitat assessments;

• Monitoring underwater sound levels to confirm levels were consistent with predictions; and

• Contributing to a scallop stock assessment by the Victorian Fisheries Authority.

The Offshore Habitat Assessments Final Report found that, overall, “no impact” was observed in the marine habitat that could be attributed to the MSS. The report was accepted by the advisory panel.

The report noted that lower fish and zooplankton numbers post testing were “highly variable” with both pre- and post-seismic testing samples considered “typical of a healthy temperate marine ecosystem”.

Scallop numbers were extremely low before and after the MSS, while rock lobster numbers were found to have increased post the MSS.

The pre and post-MSS marine habitat assessments provide an important contribution to the existing knowledge about the effects of seismic surveys on marine environments.

CarbonNet’s Environment Plan for the geophysical and geotechnical investigations was approved by the regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, in late 2018.

Geophysical investigations will begin next month between 6km and 11km offshore in Bass Strait, and will take about one week to complete.

The geotechnical investigations are expected to take place in the same area between March and June 2019.

The investigations are being carried out to confirm that the seabed can support a drill rig for the offshore appraisal well.