In May 2017, the Australian Government announced a new program of geological and bioregional assessments to be conducted in three onshore areas that are underexplored but prospective for shale and tight gas.
This work extends the current program of bioregional assessments to include studies of the potential impacts from shale and tight gas projects on the environment. The new work will provide independent scientific advice to governments, landowners and the community, business and investors.
The Australian Government has selected the following regions for assessment:
- The Cooper Basin, which spans south-west Queensland and north-east South Australia.
- The Isa Superbasin, which covers parts of northern Queensland, extending east from the Northern Territory border.
- The Beetaloo Sub-basin, which lies southeast of Katherine in the Northern Territory.
The assessments will highlight the areas that are prospective for shale and tight gas and outline any potential environmental impacts of their extraction, along with considering appropriate mitigation and management approaches. This transparent, science-based approach aims to assist in building understanding of shale and tight gas developments.
The program will produce geological and environmental data and tools that will assist regulators with planning, assessment and reporting. It will provide regulators and industry with a common information base to help inform decision-making and enhance the coordinated management of cumulative impacts.
The program comprises three stages:
- Stage 1 narrows the focus of the assessments to select three regions for detailed study. This step is done in consultation with State governments and industry.
- Stage 2 will analyse available data for the three selected regions and identify gaps to guide collection of additional baseline data where needed.
- Stage 3 will analyse the potential impacts to basin geology, water resources and other Commonwealth and State matters of environmental significance to enable effective monitoring, mitigation and management measures.
Geoscience Australia and CSIRO are conducting the assessments. The program is managed by the Department of the Environment and Energy and supported by the Bureau of Meteorology.