Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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HomeIssue 4Plans for new oil, gas wells at Mereenie, survey in Simpson

Plans for new oil, gas wells at Mereenie, survey in Simpson

The oil and gas producer Santos has plans – yet to be “fully approved” by the company – of drilling 23 wells in the Mereenie field whose known reserves are close to being exhausted.
Gas from the fields west of Alice Springs has stopped flowing to Alice Springs and Darwin because the Power Water Corporation has stopped buying it.
And crude oil production is down to “a couple of road trains a week,” says the new NT regional manager of Santos, Andrew Eastick.
The oil is trucked to the deepwater port of Port Bonython near Whyalla in South Australia.
Santos is the operating partner of the consortium owning the Mereenie field.
Mr Eastick says gas is currently re-injected into the ground where it helps with production of oil, forcing more of it to the surface.
He says the remaining known gas reserves could still play a role in the NT by meeting a quarter of the requirements of the Gove bauxite mine and alumina refinery for the next 10 years.
The company is also gearing up for 1500 km of seismic work in the Simpson desert and south of Alice Springs, following a farm-in deal with Central Petroleum.
It will be a search for gas and oil, not coal, which had been Central’s earlier focus.
The Alice Springs News Online put the following questions to Mr Eastick and he promised to investigate and provide answers next week: “Can you confirm whether Mereenie crude, after a fairly simple process of removing sand in a centrifuge, can be used in diesel engines?
“And how much would you sell the crude to someone setting up such a plant in Alice Springs?
“We used to have a refinery here and now that diesel in Central Australia costs between $1.70 and $2, who knows, someone may give it another shot.”
CORRECTION March 31: Santos became the 100% owner of Mereenie in 2011.
PHOTO: Archival shot of the Mereenie installation.


  1. The above article on the topic of oil and gas exploration and the state of a local segment of the industry is timely. With the Annual Geoscience Exploration Seminar (AGES) and Mining Services Expo being held in Alice Springs this week it is an opportune time for all concerned public to refocus on the Coal Seam Gas (CSG) industry and Hydraulic Fracking and its potential adverse impact on our local water resources.
    “New business opportunities are beginning to emerge as mining and exploration activity gathers pace in Central Australia.” (page 37, Centralian Advocate, March 15th 2013) It can only be assumed that these companies and businesses will be mindful of the need to protect and preserve the pristine and finite water resources in the areas around their exploration and mining sites. Farmers around the country are fearful that mining, coal seam gas extraction and hydraulic fracking could contaminate water or lead to excessive draw-down on underground aquifers.
    Here in Central Australia the public, farmers and station owners rely almost totally on underground aquifers for human consumption, horticulture and to water livestock. Therefore I assume common sense will prevail and exploration will be directed to areas other than those just mentioned, after all it’s a big country out there. Unfortunately water is required for the hydraulic fracturing process, so my optimisms of the industry doing the right thing are not high. On a positive note the Simpson Desert would appear to be an optimum starting point for future exploration. See my previous comments (#6) on this matter:

  2. @ Bob Taylor, March 17. Not sure why you consider the Simpson, formerly the Arrente Desert “an optimum starting point for future exploration” but am wondering if you’ve had a reply to the eminent questions you posed to the Member for Braitling last year. I would be most interested in reading those answers.
    Re: the Editor’s questions to Santos described in the article, has there been any response?
    The Australian (25/3/13) published an informative supplement ‘A Gas-Fired Future’ on the state of play in project development within Australia.
    [ED – We’re still in the process of getting those answers, Russell. I’m in correspondence with the Santos media person.]

  3. What a relief, for a while there I was beginning to think I might have been the only person interested in preserving our pristine groundwater supplies. For readers information, I did receive an email reply from both Deborah Rock and Adam Giles on this matter.
    If the moderator deems it appropriate I have cut and pasted a copy of Adam’s email to be included with my comments.
    Dear Bob
    Thank you very much for your email of 9 August 2012 in relation to fracking and water quality issues in Central Australia.
    The Country Liberals are committed to transparent assessment procedures for all mining projects which includes fracking.
    Given the experiences currently being encountered in southern states it would seem extremely unlikely that any such project would satisfy environmental requirements in the Territory.
    However, as a Party we are committed to not pre-judging any proposal and giving companies the opportunity to represent their case to the appropriate regulatory authorities.
    Adam Giles MLA
    Member for Braitling
    Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,
    Regional Development and Indigenous Affairs

  4. Given the underground leaks from some Mereenie oil wells over the years, it is unlikely that the groundwater in the vicinity of the Mereenie well-field is pristine any longer.


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