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Mining project approvals spark fears fracking project could cause earthquakes, water problems in Coober Pedy


April 15, 2019

Author: Michelle Etheridge

The Coober Pedy community is seeking assurances a trial fracking project in the Arckaringa Basin won’t compromise the town’s precious water supply or place locals at risk of earthquakes.

The Coober Pedy community is seeking assurances a trial fracking project in the Arckaringa Basin won’t compromise the town’s precious water supply or place locals at risk of earthquakes. Sapex, a subsidiary of Tri-Star Petroleum Group, wants to use fracture stimulation on a series of wells so it can measure the quantity of oil and gas in the area.

The company would drill about 1km deep in an area about 100km away from the opal mining town.

The State Government this month approved the company’s environmental impact report and statement of environmental objectives, and Tri-Star now must submit a further application with specific technical details before it receives the final go-ahead.

Coober Pedy Council chief executive Colin Pitman was worried about the project’s potential impacts on the Great Artesian Basin, which sits above the Arckaringa

Basin and nearby Cooper Basin, and is the water source for the town’s 1600 residents.

“We’re also concerned about the effect on seismic activity in this area because about 30 per cent of Coober Pedy’s buildings are underground,” Mr Pitman said.

“There’s one very large fault on the eastern side of the (Arckaringa) Basin.”

Fracking involves cracking rock underground with fluid at high pressure, to extract oil or gas. Mr Pitman was concerned the project could affect the fault line, potentially creating earthquakes. It could also affect the area’s ecology, he said.

“There’s vast quantities of birds and animal life that live near these springs.”

Mr Pitman wanted assurances there would be a strict monitoring process for the project, including measurement of the pressure effects of fracking on the Great Artesian Basin and the fault-lines in the Arckaringa Basin.

This would point to the potential impacts of a fullscale project.

A Tri-Star spokeswoman said the company’s project within the Arckaringa Basin posed “no credible risk to the Coober Pedy community”.

The spokeswoman said Tri-Star had never been issued with an environmental infringement notice during 30 years of Australian operations.

“The methods associated with our proposed exploration activities are the same as those used in the Cooper Basin without incident or adverse impact for more than 40 years,” she said.

“During this time 3500 wells have been drilled in or through the Great Artesian Basin. “Of these, 750 wells targeted oil within the Great Artesian Basin reservoirs, of which 120 wells were fracture stimulated.”

The company’s activities would only target the Stuart Range and Boorthanna Formations, hundreds of meters beneath the Great Artesian Basin.

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) external affairs director Matthew Doman said state regulation of similar projects was “very robust” and had “withstood the test of time”.

A Government spokesman said monitoring programs would be determined as part of the project’s final approval.

“The State Government will only approve safe and sustainable operations, that can demonstrate through robust scientific evidence that they can meet contemporary environment standards,” he said.