Industry welcomes new rules for shale development in Western Australia

Drilling rig, Australia
Source: DollarPhotoClub

New regulations came into effect last week in Western Australia (WA) that govern the petroleum and geothermal industries. Welcomed by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (Appea), the new rules give WA the most stringent well integrity and resource management conditions in the country and will complement the existing safety and environmental regulations.

The new safeguards follow an independent review of WA’s objective-based framework which is recognised internationally as the best way of encouraging innovation and operational excellence whilst also maintaining high standards of environmental protection.

Before drilling operations are approved the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) will assess applications, on a site-by-site and project-by-project basis, to ensure work is conducted in accordance with good oil field practices and in a way that reduces risks to the environment. Companies will also be required to submit a list of all chemicals to be used in the well operations, although WA is the only jurisdiction requiring full public disclosure.

WA is hoping to learn from the experiences of other states in order to adopt international best practices and strengthen its regulatory system so as to ensure the environment and communities are protected while this new industry is developed.

The production of natural gas from shale and tight rock is still in the early stages in Australia at the moment, it is likely to take between five and ten years for significant commercial projects to get under-way. However, the DMP believes it is important that the legislative framework and robust regulations are in place sooner rather than later.

Jeff Haworth, DMP executive Director of Petroleum Division, said “The State Government understands community concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing and strengthening regulations and ensuring best practices are implemented is critical to addressing these concerns”.

“As part of the approvals process, companies are legally required to provide an environment plan that assesses the potential impacts on groundwater, as well as flora and fauna” he added.

Appea said on Thursday that the changes to the regulation, combined with the oil and gas industry’s commitment to high standards of safety and environmental protection, should give the public confidence that shale and tight gas projects can be developed safely and sustainably.

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