Conventional onshore gas on region’s horizon

Victorian Gas Program community engagement manager Grant Clarke and Geological Survey of Victoria director Paul McDonald.

Victorian Gas Program community engagement manager Grant Clarke and Geological Survey of Victoria director Paul McDonald.

Although conventional onshore gas exploration is banned until 30 June 2020, a team is being set up in Warrnambool to survey Victoria’s reserves as part of a state government program.

The south-west is considered the most promising part of the state for conventional onshore gas exploration, and a team of up to 15 people will work for three years to survey how much might be available.

The Victorian Gas Program has been backed with $42.5 million in state government funding, and will provide information about gas availability and issues associated with gas exploration and development to guide future government decisions.

Geological Survey of Victoria director Paul McDonald said the south-west had previously been a strong gas-producing region.

“The best place to look for where conventional gas is is to look where it’s been produced in the past,” he said.

“We’re basically looking at the Otway Basin – between Port Campbell to the border here – and also incorporating the Gippsland Basin.

“We’re looking at the Otway Basin as the most prospective so the majority of our work will be based in south-west Victoria.

“In the Otway Basin, the most prospective area is between Warrnambool and Port Campbell.”

The Warrnambool-based team will be made up of administration staff, geoscientists and environmental scientists.

Mr McDonald said community consultation would form a significant part of the program.

He said ‘fracking’ – or unconventional gas exploration – usually involved fracturing rock to release gas, whereas conventional gas sat in porous rocks that allowed the gas to flow.

In March, the state government permanently banned fracking and placed a moratorium on onshore conventional gas exploration.

Corangamite Shire does not back the moratorium on conventional gas exploration.

At a March meeting chief executive officer Andrew Mason said much of the shire’s agricultural activity and processing, particularly dairy, was heavily reliant on gas sources.

In July, Moyne Shire passed a motion asking the state government to allow conventional onshore gas exploration once the moratorium expired in 2020.

Four councillors voted for the motion, and three voted against it.

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