Buru Energy admits to chemical and radioactive waste leakage

Protesters rally against Buru Energy's Ungani oil and gas fracking project in WA's Kimberley region.

Buru Energy has admitted in its submission to the Western Australian Fracking Inquiry that testing of flowback fluids from its 2015 fracking operations in the Kimberley showed elevated levels of the chemical contaminants boron and barium and the radionuclide radium-228.

The elevated levels of boron and barium were found in Buru’s Asgard 1 and Valhalla North 1 fracking flowback waste water ponds. The levels exceeded the World Health Organisation limits for acceptable levels for stock water. Representative samples of flowback fluid from Asgard 1 also showed “relatively high concentrations” of the radioactive material radium-228.

Buru plans to drill 80 fracking wells in its proposed Yulleroo gasfield over the 20-year expected life of the project and to use the controversial practice of reinjecting fracking flowback water into the Kimberley’s Laurel formation.

It says some of its flowback waste could be used as drinking water for beef cattle if problematic elevated chemicals are diluted using additional groundwater.

If Buru goes ahead with the Yulleroo Conceptual Gasfield, it plans to build super well pads with up to 10 gas wells per pad that would spiral out for kilometres underground, fracking different levels of the formation. It also plans to build a nine hectare processing facility in the middle of the gasfield, with an additional nine hectare waste water holding facility.

Lock the Gate spokesperson Jane Hammond said the submission provided frightening insights into the scale of development proposed for the Kimberley.

“Buru is downplaying the size and scale of its pilot gasfield, the proposed Yulleroo gasfield. But 80 fracking wells, nine hectares of waste water holding ponds, 100 hectares of super well pads and up to 190 return truck movements of triple road trains per frack, will seem massive to many people. 

“It is alarming that Buru has so far only test fracked a handful of wells in the Kimberley yet by its own admission has found elevated chemicals and radionuclides in its flowback waste water. 

“Fracking has not even started commercially and yet we are already seeing spills, elevated chemicals and radioactive material in waste water ponds and attempts to downplay the scale of the impacts.

“Its plans for the reinjection of wastewater into the ground are also of concern. Flowback fluids and other waste water are problems the industry has difficulty dealing with so Buru plans to conveniently inject its waste back underground where it will be out of sight and out of mind.

“Fracking is not needed or wanted in WA. It is risky, dirty and wasteful. We hope the WA Government will listen to the thousands of people who made submissions to the WA fracking inquiry calling for a permanent legislated ban on fracking across the state.”

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