Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett has, for the first time, drawn a strong link between his proposed gas hub at James Price Point and vast onshore shale gas deposits in the Kimberley’s Canning Basin.
As industry analysts increasingly doubt the economic viability of the Premier’s gas hub – and insist that 'floating' technology would be a more profitable way for Woodside and Shell to exploit gas from the offshore Browse Basin – Barnett has responded:
“WA’s vast quantities of shale gas could be put through James Price Point…The [onshore] shale gas resource in the Canning Basin is probably twice the size of the offshore Carnarvon and Browse Basins… that’s another strong argument why the WA government wishes to see James Price Point developed.” (Politics of Gas, The Sunday Times, 13 January 2013).
The only way to extract the trillions of cubic feet of methane believed to be ‘locked up’ in the Canning Basin would be a massive gas fracking operation. Such a project would involve fracking wells, pipes, ponds and roads over thousands of square kilometres, and would have serious implications for the iconic Fitzroy River, important wetlands, and groundwater resources relied upon by Aboriginal communities and pastoralists.
Buru Energy has already conducted a ‘trial’ fracking operation 80 kilometres east of Broome, while companies like Conoco Philips are also investing in the Canning Basin.
Conservationists have long argued that the proposed gas factory at James Price Point is the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and that, if developed, it would lead to industrialisation of the wider Kimberley region.
Premier Barnett's recent comments demonstrate that those concerns were well-founded, and that exploiting gas from the Browse Basin is just part of the Premier's agenda as he continues to push for a gas hub at James Price Point.