Sydney residents question gas company

Protest against CSG mining in suburban Sydney, December 19.

Multinational gas company Dart Energy met with residents from St Peters on June 6 to discuss the company’s plans to carry out exploratory coal seam gas (CSG) drilling in Sydney’s inner-west before the end of the year.

Dart have plans to drill at a now vacant industrial site in St Peters close to residential properties and Sydney Park.

The exploration licence held by Dart covers not only St Peters but an area of 2392 square kilometeres, encompassing most of metropolitan and suburban Sydney.

Representatives from community action group Sydney Residents Against Coal Seam Gas met with Dart Energy’s NSW exploration manager Jason Needham and its Australia manager Robbert de Weijer.

Needham and de Weijer said that while the government’s 60-day CSG moratorium has meant the company required some clarification regarding the implications for their planned drilling in St Peters, they intended to commence exploration at the site after September this year.

Around the same time, exploratory drilling will commence at sites at Putty, Williamtown (near Newcastle) and Catherine Hill Bay.

Speaking to a community forum in Putty, Needham told locals: “We have seven licences in seven areas in NSW and we are doing activities in all seven this year.”

Needham said CSG exploration “can tell you gas is present and in what composition, but not if it is commercially viable”.

De Weijer confirmed in the meeting that if CSG at St Peters was found to be commercially viable and appropriate licences were granted, the site would be drilled.

Needham and de Weijer said it was “really unlikely” that the controversial CSG extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, would be used.

“We’ve got no plans to frack but you can’t rule it out,” said Needham.

They said it was likely that if the St Peters site reached production phase, an extraction technique known as horizontal in-seam drilling would be used.

“[With] horizontal in-seam drilling you can have a much larger drill area with one well head,” said Needham.

CSG mining is expanding across NSW and Queensland. Water usage, and waste water produced by projects, is a key concern for many residents and environmental groups.

Needham said the amount of water used during production “depends on scope of drilling, but for a single in-seam lateral, water use would be in the order of 1000 litres a day during the peak, which is at the start of production”.

In the case of potential coal seam gas production in St Peters, waste water would be trucked off site and treated at a reverse osmosis plant.

De Weijer told the meeting that if the St Peters project does commence: “Production could be 5-10 years, some [coal seam gas] projects in the Surat Basin go for 15 years.”

Dart is also currently considering sites near Sydney’s Eastern Creek for CSG exploration.

“Our focus is the NSW domestic market. Gas demand will triple over next 20 years. We see a good market domestically,” de Weijer said of Dart’s plans in NSW.

The proposal to drill in St Peters has been criticised by the NSW Greens. Mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham told the June 4 Sydney Morning Herald: “I believe the industry is not capable of integrating into urban environments.”

Hundreds of local residents are also concerned and have joined Sydney Residents Against Coal Seam Gas in response to Dart’s plans to drill for CSG in their area. For more details visit