The Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000 states that approval can only be given once the company can demonstrate that all risks to the health and safety of the community and to the environment are either completely avoided, or reduced to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable and acceptable to the community and other land users.
This process requires extensive consultation with stakeholders including land owners, cultural heritage and native title groups, community groups and government agencies.
The Department of State Development carefully assesses each project application on its merits to ensure that only environmentally sustainable projects are granted land access.
To ensure protection of potable aquifers and hence other land users’ access to that water, the approval process also requires that background sampling and analysis of aquifers are undertaken before drilling activities commence.
Regular ongoing sampling is then undertaken at appropriate intervals to demonstrate that no contamination is occurring. Furthermore, prior to the completion of the well, the licensee must demonstrate that cement integrity behind the casing is adequate
Recognised industry best practice for facility integrity and safety must be adhered to in well design, construction, maintenance, and monitoring to ensure there will be no loss of containment that may result in contamination of the environment, including water supplies, soils, flora and fauna.
Casing and cement are pressure tested for leak-tightness before wells are put to use.
Operators monitor the containment of wells using high-tech monitoring tools during the fracture stimulation process and ongoing integrity testing.