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Western Australia Mandating Well Chemicals Disclosure
The government of Western Australia said Wednesday it will introduce regulations to mandate public disclosure of “any chemicals introduced into a well or formation” although tight and shale gas development in the region is seen as “a number of years away.”
Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore said the Petroleum Environment Regulations would be introduced under the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967. “The regulations aim to ensure petroleum and geothermal operations are conducted in accordance with best industry practice and ecologically sustainable development,” Moore said.
“A key element of the regulations is to mandate public disclosure of any chemicals introduced into a well or formation, which will be made available on the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) website. The public disclosure of this information means Western Australia has the greatest level of chemical disclosure of any jurisdiction in Australia.”
The regulations also will increase reporting requirements, with monthly reporting against performance objectives within environment plans, which are documents regulators examine when determining whether to approve projects. Environment Plans are required to be revised by the operator every five years.
The changes are complementary to recommendations from a DMP-initiated independent review of Western Australia’s regulatory framework for unconventional gas activities conducted in 2011 by petroleum law expert Tina Hunter. The Hunter review concluded that current regulatory processes were stringent but required further strengthening to improve legal enforceability, DMP said.
“Western Australia has no known potentially commercial coal seam gas resources, because of the state’s geology and character of its coals; however, public concerns raised in response to activities in Queensland prompted the Liberal-National Government to ensure [Western Australia’s] regulatory framework became stringent enough to ensure community confidence,” Moore said.
“Potential commercial developments for tight and shale gas in [Western Australia] are a number of years away, which provides the state with an opportunity to better understand the resource and ensure we have robust, world best practice industry regulation in place.”
In the United States, the home of the shale gas and oil revolution, disclosure of frack fluid chemicals has been called for by environmentalists and provided by numerous operators, most notably through the website fracfocus.org (see Shale Daily, June 6).
Nearly two years ago and after two years of study, Australian exploration and production company AWE Ltd. said it had identified targets within the Perth Basin Shale play that rival the characteristics of some of the productive natural gas shales within the United States. This was said at the time to be the country’s first commercial shale gas play (see Shale Daily, Nov. 17, 2010).
Australian companies have been active in U.S. shales, perhaps most notably BHP Billiton Ltd., which has found recently that U.S. shale gas assets it paid dearly for are worth far less today due to depressed gas prices (see Shale Daily, Aug. 13).
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