Stab Magazine | Oil, Gas And Environmental Concerns Off Australia’s East Coast

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Oil, Gas And Environmental Concerns Off Australia’s East Coast

The ongoing war between economic desires and idealistic environmentalism. 

news // Feb 12, 2018
Words by Jake Embrey
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Asset Energy, a subsidiary of Advent Energy, has recently been granted approval by the federal regulator to explore the Central Coast’s (two hours north of Sydney) offshore oil and gas potential.

Oil drilling in the area may be less contentious than previous plans to search for oil in the Great Australian Bight, nevertheless, there are still serious concerns from locals and environmental activists about the impacts both the exploration and future development may have.

The north Central Coast is a relatively untouched region – as you can see in Stab’s ‘About Town’ – and many locals want it to remain this way.

One of the proposed sites for seismic blast testing

According to Coast Community News, the Central Coast Greens recently brought the public’s attention towards the recently released, ‘Environment Plan Summary and Statement of Reasons’, which outlined the recent approval granted to Asset Energy; allowing the company to use seismic blasts 24km offshore of the Norah Head.  

Whilst the most serious concerns revolve around the possibilities of future oil extraction, the more immediate seismic blasts used during assessment still pose noticeable threats to marine life in the area.

Ryan Callinan relishing in some of Newcastle’s finest offshore offerings.

According to NSW parliamentarian, Justin Field, the scheduled seismic blast activity will injure animals within a 1km radius of each blast site and will kill all animals within 70 metres of the testing site. These blasts will occur every 3-4 seconds, 24-hours a day for a four-day period, a period scheduled to run between March 15th and May 30th.  

A report detailing the impacts of the seismic blasts has also identified that 22 threatened marine species will likely reside in the area and a further 32 species of whales and other crustaceans will likely be affected.

Dixon Beach, Newcastle, not far from the offshore proposals. Photo. Bosko

One serious worry is the impact the seismic blast activity may have on migrating whales, many of which are already substantially endangered.

The whales’ East Coast migration season is officially set as June 1st, however, last year, whales were observed migrating through the region as early as May. Asset Energy has indicated that their dates are strictly set not to interfere with the whales’ migration patterns, however, it’s impossible to ensure the sites are “whale free” during testing.

Moreover, since the blasts are scheduled to run 24 hours a day during the testing window, it is impracticable to monitor marine activity during the night-time hours when visibility it at a minimum.

Outside of environmental concerns, fisherman have also contacted Mr. Field, stating their worries, due to their experiences when similar exploration occurred in the area in 2010. The fisherman said the previous explorations resulted in a noticeable reduction in fish catchment for a number of weeks after testing was completed.

In addition to the immediate impacts of seismic blasts, there are hypothetical concerns about the likely future developments if the region is found to contain suitable quantities of oil. At this stage the company’s future intentions are not explicit, but if suitable quantities were found, it’s almost guaranteed the company will push for an offshore facility.

Satellite image of the area and the proposed regions for testing, as well as the regions previously explored in 2004 and 2010.

The Central Coast Greens member, Abigail Boyd, has therefore called on avid Stab readers, the Federal Environment Minister, Josh Frydenberg, and NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian to reconsider these allocations in light of local opposition and the potential impacts on the ecosystem.

As always, there will be rational economic arguments for the developments, such as an increased number of jobs, as well as continuing demand for oil and gas power. However, you would be hard pressed to find a substantial number of locals who are for the exploration – at least within the left-wing echo chamber in which I typically reside. 

With an abundance of renewable technologies being manufactured each and every year, you would imagine that companies would shy away from the technologies of days gone by. Unfortunately, this is never the case, if there’s money to be made, you can be sure there is someone willing to exploit the means to reach their desired end.



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