BURU Energy will progress with plans to test for tight gas in Western Australia’s Canning basin after the program received the green light from the Department of Mines and Petroleum.
The Perth-based company pleased shareholders on 23 June when announcing the approval of its Laurel Formation tight gas pilot exploration program in the Kimberley region which completes the regulatory approval process required for the program to proceed.
The final approval came less than a week after WA Environment Minister Albert Jacob upheld the WA Environmental Protection Authority’s (EPA) determination that Buru’s proposed small-scale exploration campaign didn’t require an EPA assessment and was unlikely to have a significant effect on the environment.
Opponents to the scheme had lodged 48 appeals against the project, with the overriding concern raised being the potential impact of Buru’s plans to test for gas flows using hydraulic fracturing and future proposals to develop commercial gas production field in the Kimberley.
With all hurdles cleared, Buru can now move ahead with its plans to test for tight gas at four existing well sites in the Canning basin in the Laurel Formation, namely Valhalla North 1, Asgard 1, Yulleroo 3 and Yulleroo 4.
Buru said the program will begin with preliminary site preparation with the overall program to involve stimulation of tight gas zones in existing vertical exploration wells to “assess their geological and commercial potential.”
The program is the first step in what could potentially be a multi-stage exploration, appraisal and development campaign for tight gas spanning several years.
Buru’s fracking program could not only prove advantageous from a company point of view provided the resources are determined to be commercially viable, but also from a state perspective with gas from the Canning basin earmarked to supply both industrial and domestic markets in WA.
Under a state agreement between the company and its joint venture partner, Mitsubishi, Buru is targeting the initial delivery of 1,500 petajoules of gas into the WA domestic market, enough to supply Perth residential customers for more than 80 years.
At the time of the announcement, Buru’s then-managing director Keiran Wulff, who has since been replaced by Eric Streitberg, said there was considerable interest on a national scale to understand the commercial potential of tight gas in the basin and to ensure the program is undertaken with utmost consideration to the environment and community.
“Not only is our program small scale with no significant environmental impact, according to EPA guidelines, but it is also backed up by very rigorous technical studies, testing and analysis,” Dr Wulff said.
“We have also taken great care to use state of the art techniques including a hydraulic fracturing fluid made with ingredients sourced from the food industry, that is non-toxic and rapidly biodegrades.”
Furthermore, Dr Wulff said Buru had also undertaken an extensive community engagement program throughout the Kimberley which has already proved valuable with the Yungngora Community at Noonkanbah Station formally indicating their support for the company’s tight gas testing program.
One of the wells to be tested by fracking methods is located on land held by the traditional owners, about 320 kilometres east of Broome.
The Community provided its support in principle at a formal meeting on 24 June after independent scientific specialists appointed by the Community assessed the environmental plan for the tight gas exploration program determining it would have low risk to land.
Yungngora Community Association chairperson Caroline Mulligan said the support recognised the community’s strong connections with the land and the process adopted by Buru Energy showed respect for the land, the people and their cultural values.
“In providing this support, the Noonkanbah Community has demanded that utmost care and respect be taken of our Country,” Ms Mulligan said.
“A formal decision will be prepared by the lawyer for the group, Munro Doig, and this will then formalise the arrangements.
“As the project progresses, we will be very careful to make sure that our Country remains protected by independently assessing every step in the process.”
Buru has been engaged with the Yungngora Community since 2007, ensuring Noonkanbah has been informed along every step of the way.
Dr Wulff described their support as a landmark decision that provided real potential economic benefits to the Noonkanbah Community.
“Employment opportunities have already been provided for the Community including environmental science training through a structured cadet program, as well as employment through subcontracting such as earthworks, fencing, site remediation, on-site cleaning and cooking, monitoring, and security,” he said.
“These employment opportunities are just the tip of the iceberg for community benefits if the tight gas resource in the Canning basin can be proven to be commercially viable.
“We look forward to working closely with the Noonkanbah Community as we progress with our project,” he said.
Buru’s pilot program will be carried out at least 2,000 metres below the surface. Predicted frack heights will be between 50 to 80 metres under the planned program