On 17 July 2018, the Northern Territory (NT) Government released its plan to implement the 135 recommendations of the Independent Scientific Inquiry into unconventional hydraulic fracturing. The plan details how each of the recommendations will be implemented and is grouped under six key themes: Strengthening Regulation, Ensuring Accountable Industry Practise, Safeguarding Water and the Environment, Respecting Community and Culture, Maximising Regional Benefits and Local opportunities, and Planning for Industry.
The NT Government has outlined the following Implementation Stages:
Stage 1: Planning
Establishing an Onshore Shale Gas Community and Business Reference Group.
By July 2018
Stage 2: Preparing for exploration
Implementing 30 priority recommendations from the Report, to allow hydraulic fracturing to commence.
By the end of 2018
Stage 3: Exploration and preparing for production
Implementing the remaining recommendations required before production licences can be approved.
Between 2018 and 2021
Administrative: There will be increased transparency and reporting requirements for resource companies and the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources. No-go zones will be implemented, including National parks, towns and areas of cultural significance. Royalties will be allocated to support economic and social development.
Approvals and Reporting: The NT Government will undertake a Strategic Regional Environmental and Baseline Assessment (SREBA) on onshore gas basins before granting production approvals. This assessment will include regional baseline monitoring of methane concentrations for at least six months. Resources companies will be required to submit a Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for approval before being granted a production licence.
Compliance: Resource companies will be required to disclose the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process and to implement wastewater management and spill plans to ensure there is no harm to the environment.
Community and Industry Involvement: Members of the public will be able to lodge an objection to the granting of a mining exploration licence. An online portal will be developed as a central point for data on industry activity and environmental, social, health and cultural baselines and impacts, for the community benefit.
While the granting of production licenses may be three years away, exploration and development activities are likely to commence before the end of Stage 3. In anticipation of this, there is likely to be increased M&A activity in the area. Oil service companies and ancillary industries may also enjoy an increase in demand as companies seek to lock down arrangements.
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