Dart's latest council headache - UPDATED

DART Energy is facing another angry local council, with the Port Stephens Council the latest to oppose its plans for coal seam gas development.
Dart's latest council headache - UPDATED Dart's latest council headache - UPDATED Dart's latest council headache - UPDATED Dart's latest council headache - UPDATED Dart's latest council headache - UPDATED

Courtesy Dart Energy

James McGrath

The council has expressed its outrage at the New South Wales government’s decision to approve Dart’s drilling plans at Fullerton Cove.

The drilling involves one vertical well with four horizontal arms to give Dart access to 4000m of the Tomago coal measures at 650m to 700m depth.

The gas from the development would go toward the Maria’s Farm Veggies project, a glasshouse development based on a Dutch design which will grow tomatoes, capsicums and cucumbers for the Australian market, with the project pencilled in for completion in early 2013.

The initial term of the memorandum of understanding is 10 years, to supply up to 6.3 petajoules of gas at a provisional price of $7.50 per gigajoule from the pilot wells.

The deal is conditional upon approvals and Dart being able to demonstrate stable supply from its two-well pilot program but supply may ramp up to 2.4PJ per year over the 10-year term of the project if the combined heat and power plant expands to 32 megawatts.

Dart Energy stressed that the development would not involve hydraulic fracturing.

The council said it would write to Premier Barry O’Farrell, Minister for Resources and Energy Chris Hartcher and Environment Minister Robyn Parker to register its disgust with the plans.

It is seeking to stop all CSG exploration within council limits until “the impact of coal gas exploration is known” and Dart can prove its plans are safe by providing the council a comprehensive risk assessment.

The council is also seeking evidence that the development will provide a total net benefit over cost, including the cost of dealing with future climate change and potential aquifer contamination.

It’s another headache for Dart, with Sydney’s Marrickville council voting unanimously earlier this year to impose a condition prohibiting CSG mining from proceeding at an inner suburban site as part of the development applications.

The owner of the site had struck a deal with mining company Dart Energy to drill a CSG well on the site and the council said it would also write to the NSW government requesting it not to renew Dart’s license to explore for CSG.

Dart subsequently declared that it was not seeking to drill in the area.

*UPDATE*

The NSW Department of Trade and Investment has come out in full support of Dart Energy’s application to explore at Fullerton Cove, telling the media some sections of the community were seeking to “misrepresent the facts”

It reiterated that the application from Dart to drill at Fullerton Cove ran the gamut of assessments from the NSW Department of Resources and Energy, the Office of Water, the Office of Environment & Heritage and the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.

It said while the council had no legal right to stop the activity unless the work were to be carried out on council-owned lands, comments made by the council were fully considered during the assessment stage.

The department added that NSW now had the toughest controls on CSG in Australia.

A Dart Energy spokesperson told EnergyNewsPremium the company had offered one-on-one sessions with 100 families living close to the Fullerton Cove and had held two information sessions attended by more than 100 residents.

Dart has also established a community reference group of local stakeholders with an independent chairman.

The spokesperson says Dart has met with the council on a couple of occasions and recently briefed the Newcastle Council general manager and the city’s lord mayor on its activities.

Dart Energy said it would provide information to the council which was available to it, pointing to an exhaustive approvals process as evidence that its pilot proposal had been given proper oversight.

Dart showed ENP a letter from Hunter Water saying it had examined the proposal and found that the pilot would have no effect on aquifers in the area as the Tomago coal seams were significantly downstream of Tomago water bores.

Hunter Water also said any decrease of in pressurisation of the aquifer due to water extraction associated with Dart’s Fullerton pilot was not a concern as water levels in the area were effectively controlled by the sea level.

This article first appeared in ILN's sister publication EnergyNewsBulletin.net.

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