The Waitsia gas field is ranked one of the top five largest gas fields ever discovered onshore in Australia. AWE Perth Pty Ltd, under the Mitsui E&P Australia brand, is proposing to further develop the gas field through the Waitsia Stage 2 project – which has now been formally approved by Western Australia’s Environment Minister, Stephen Dawson.
The Waitsia Stage 2 project is proposed to involve:
- The construction and operation of 250 terajoule per day gas plant and related infrastructure approximately 16 kilometres east-south-east of the Dongara-Port Denison town sites;
- The drilling of up to six new production wells to supplement the existing two wells;
- The installation of a gas gathering system comprising of flowlines and hubs; and
- The installation of a flowline from the proposed gas plant for water reinjection via a disused petroleum production well.
The Western Australian Environmental Protection Authority states the proposal will involve the clearing of up to 17 hectares of native vegetation.
Mitsui E&P Australia outlines that during construction and operation of the project, there will be significant economic benefits (both directly and indirectly) to the local region and also to the State. The company forecasts that during the development phase, an estimated 200 jobs will be created and during the operation phase there will be an estimated 12-15 permanent jobs associated with Waitsia Stage 2, which is forecast to deliver approximately $13 million per year to the region.
On Monday, the project was approved by Western Australia’s Environment Minister, Stephen Dawson, subject to several strict conditions such as a flora and vegetation management plan, a water management plan, a greenhouse gas management plan, a flaring management plan and heritage management.
While the Stage 2 proposal does not include Hydraulic Fracture Stimulation and Mitsui E&P Australia outlines that “no fracking is planned and no approval for fracking is being sought”, Farmer Rod Copeland said locals remained fearful the project will lead to more fracking at the site because neither of the companies behind it – Mitsui and Beach – nor the government had formally ruled it out.
“The [Western Australian] Government is not listening to people – it is just riding along on COVID-coattails thinking the public will just go along with their decisions but that’s not true here,” Mr Copeland said.
“Households and farming communities do not want fracking, but we are also concerned because gas companies will now try to come onto private land, they will need to build new roads which will create a lot of dust and noise pollution,” he said.
“Our local population will be here long after the industry is gone and it will be people like us who will be forced to clean up the mess the company leaves.”
“We shouldn’t be circled by industrial gasfields, particularly when fossil fuels are on the way out and renewable energy is the way forward.”
Irwin Pensioner Dianne Horne called on the McGowan Government and Mitsui and Beach to “back off”.
“We don’t need it, we have more than enough gas so just leave it in the ground,” she said.
“I just don’t think it’s necessary with the way everyone is turning to renewables. Why go further into gas? It shouldn’t be happening.”
The Lock the Gate Alliance says locals would like to see a firm announcement from the companies and a formal condition from the government that there will be no fracking at this location.