Fear grows for fracking near Uluru

urlCOMMUNITY concern is growing for the sanctity of Uluru after a drilling program reported positive results on a permit extending to just 75km from the famous rock. Central Petroleum and Santos own the Amadeus Basin petroleum exploration license EP 125 in a joint venture and have been drilling a conventional exploration well at the Mt Kitty 1 site, about 190km from Uluru.

Last month Central reported encouraging but disparate results from the drilling program, with chief executive Richard Cottee calling the findings “positive”. “The presence of methane and higher hydrocarbons confirms the presence of a working petroleum system in the permit, and the presence of high value helium is very encouraging,” he said. “However…the commercial significance of the Mt Kitty 1 gas discovery is unable to be judged based on results recorded to date.”

The preliminary results came after the joint venture reported an incident at the rig in April that forced a suspension of operations. In a statement, Central said Santos was suitably encouraged by the results to resume sampling operations, with further results to be available by the end of June. Drilling on the permit sparked community anger about potential unconventional exploration and production too close to Uluru.

A meeting of more than 100 people in Alice Springs resolved to form a local action group to challenge fracking in the Territory. Lock the Gate coordinator Boudicca Cerese said plans to look for gas near Uluru demonstrated that the gas industry did not consider anything off limits. “The problem is that there is a ‘drill and frack at all costs’ mentality, when the science behind fracking and the laws in place are inadequate to protect the community,” she said.

“To think that an area of huge cultural significance worth millions of dollars to the tourist industry could face a future as a gasfield is a major concern.
“The Alice Springs meeting last night heard that fracking should not proceed until there have been proper scientific assessments, strong regulations put in place and no-go zones created to protect sensitive areas, water resources and important industries such as the tourism and pastoral industries.”

A Santos spokesman said the company was looking for conventional and shale reserves within the permit area, while Mr Cottee told The Australian Central had no plans to undertake fracking within EP 125.