Environmentalists say the Victorian government’s support for new gas production near the Twelve Apostles defeats the purpose of its goal of reducing carbon emissions to net zero.
Beach Energy’s application to produce gas near Port Campbell requires final approval from Victoria’s resources regulator
Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio has given her consent after the National Parks Advisory Council raised no concerns
Critics say the onshore-to-offshore drilling goes against global advice on tackling climate change
The state’s energy and climate minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, this month gave ASX-listed Beach Energy Ltd consent to turn a testing well beneath the Port Campbell National Park into a production well.
Ministerial consent was given after the National Parks Advisory Council confirmed it had no objections to the application and the proposal does not allow any drilling in the park itself.
However, Friends of the Earth campaigns manager Cam Walker said the approval went against recent advice from the International Energy Agency against all new fossil fuel approvals.
“That includes coal, oil and gas from this day onwards … if we want to have a hope of avoiding any heating beyond 1.5C overall,” Mr Walker said.
Not a done deal
Despite ministerial consent, the proposal still requires final approval from the state’s resources regulator.
Earth Resources Regulation executive director Anthony Hurst said that, if approval was granted, the site would be inspected regularly and subject to “quite stringent monitoring requirements”, with technology used to detect any gas leaks.
Beach Energy is yet to respond to a request for comment but, in its recent annual report, it forecast production at the site named Enterprise-1 would begin in the first six months of 2023.
Its proposal — submitted in February after consultation with Parks Victoria — needed ministerial consent because its existing approval did not allow gas production.
According to advice provided to the minister, the well bore extends about 3.5km south-east of the drill site to a gas reservoir about 2km offshore in the Otway basin.
The company plans to install a production well on freehold land about 450 metres outside the national park and a new pipeline to connect the gas field to the existing Otway gas plant in Port Campbell.
No offshore rigs
A government spokeswoman said the Twelve Apostles were protected as a marine park and no drilling would occur within its boundaries.
She also described the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report as a “crucial wake-up call to governments who have sat on their hands for too long”.
“We have recently announced our climate change strategy, which included a plan to deliver on Victoria’s interim target of halving emissions by 2030,” the spokeswoman said.
Mr Walker said the drill site’s proximity to the Twelve Apostles “seems to be a strange own goal”, given the same government had excluded coastal marine parks from acreage releases previously.