The Australian Government has committed AU$30.4 million to undertake the Geological and Bioregional Assessments Program. The program aims to promote sustainable gas development through independent, scientific studies into the potential environmental impacts of shale and tight gas exploration and production. These studies will be undertaken by CSIRO and Geoscience Australia and managed by the Department of the Environment and Energy.
The program began in July 2017 and will be delivered in three stages over four years. Stage 1 narrowed the focus of the assessments to three regions, the Cooper Basin, the Isa Superbasin, and the Beetaloo Sub-basin. Stage 2 will establish a geological and environmental baseline for the regions. Data from disciplines such as geology, hydrology, hydrogeology and ecology are collected, analysed and synthesised to conceptualise the petroleum, groundwater and surface water systems to establish whether shale and tight gas activities in the subsurface could potentially result in any interaction between gas plays, productive aquifers and/or surface water resources. This work is then used to conceptualise links and potential impacts to matters of national or state environmental significance in the region. The collection of baseline data in Stage 2 also identifies information and/or data gaps to inform the potential collection of additional data during Stage 3.
Stage 3 will analyse the potential impacts of shale and tight gas development. From these analyses methodologies for monitoring and managing these activities will be developed and made available for any future Commonwealth and state assessments.
On completion, the Program will deliver geological and environmental data and tools that will assist regulators and the oil and gas industry with planning, assessment and reporting. It will provide regulators and industry with a common information base to help inform decision-making and enhance the coordinated management of cumulative impacts.