Asset Energy is definitely preparing to seek permission to conduct 3D seismic testing in waters off the Central Coast, with pre-planning for a mandatory Environmental Plan already underway, Director, Tobias Foster, has confirmed in an exclusive video interview with Central Coast Newspapers.
If given the green light, the testing would be carried out over a 1,000sq km area, much of which is off our regional coastline.
“We are at the stage where we are preparing an Environmental Plan,” Foster said.
“We are determining how and when we wish to go about that at the moment.
“As per federal regulations, we need to engage with the community and stakeholders and present an Environmental Plan to the national regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).”
Foster said there was a definite need for the testing to be conducted off NSW waters.
“The majority of the gas from Queensland is exported to Asian markets and gas for NSW has predominantly been from Victoria, but the reserves are declining,” he said.
“What the discovery of natural gas in NSW-would do is that, pending reserves and engineering, we would be able to offer a local source of gas to provide a cheaper energy source.
“We need to secure an energy supply for NSW for decades to come.”
Foster said it was obvious from 2D seismic work “stretching back to the 80s” and conducted as recently as 2018 off Norah Head, that the Sydney Basin contains hydro-bearing source materials which could yield “multi-trillion feet of gas”.
“That’s a significant resource in anyone’s language,” he said.
Foster said he did not agree that any lasting damage would be done to marine eco systems through seismic survey.
“What we have to do is understand that noise as an energy source can disrupt particular organisms in certain contexts,” he said.
“We have to understand each of the risks, determine how we can mitigate against them, and ensure that we have control measures during any activity to ensure that any impact we have on any marine organism or eco system is managed effectively and acceptable to the environmental regulator.”
Foster defended the need for 3D testing, saying comparing it to 2D testing, was “a bit like colour TV compared to grainy black and white”.
“It will improve our knowledge of the existence of hydro carbons and ensure development as efficiently and safely as possible,” he said.
With drilling, the natural successor to seismic testing, Foster said an incident such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico was unlikely.
“In terms of seismic survey, there is no risk of natural hyrdo carbon release,” he said.
“As a consequence of drilling, of course, when we are penetrating geological strata, we do need to ensure that that procedure is undertaken safely and effectively.
“We have to prepare an Oil Pollution Prevention Plan as part of any Environmental Plan for our petroleum activity (with) response mechanisms to mitigate against any potential spill.”
Foster said there were systems in place and that the industry continues to “evolve and improve technology, procedures and practices.”
Following several incidents, including Deepwater, NOPSEMA had changed regulations to guard against such events, he said.
“In terms of the drilling process, we will ensure all assets, nationally and locally, are in place and ready to act should the worst eventuate,” Foster said.
He said the company was aware of, but undeterred by, thousands of vocal opponents to any seismic testing off Central Coast waters.
“We undertook 2D testing in April, 2018, and we were certainly aware that local interest groups were concerned about our operations, and we anticipate that will continue into the future,” he said.
“Australia must maintain energy security, it must maintain provision of raw materials for manufacturing and to ensure energy prices are kept as low as possible.
“People must maintain that in the back of their minds when understanding what the petroleum industry provides for Australia.”
See the full video interview at www.coastcommunitynews.com.au/news/video-news/
Video interview, Mar7
Community News Partners
Reporter: Terry Collins