‘No fracking’ a Territory Alliance promise hard to keep



“No fracking in the NT” is a brave promise by the Territory Alliance but one that may be hard to keep if it wins government at next week’s election.

There is a clue in the second sentence of the party’s policy position paper: “Under Territory Alliance there will be no more fracking in the Northern Territory.”

Not any fracking or no more?

This comes next: “Existing exploration licences will not be renewed, and no more production permits will be issued.”

It seems clear this could only happen with legislative changes that would expose the horrendously indebted Territory to massive compensation claims from the oil and gas industry.

Says the Department of Primary Industry and Resources, responding to questions from the Alice Springs News: “When a commercially viable petroleum discovery is made exploration permit holders have a legal right to a production licence.”

There are few production leases: A producing oil and gas field (OL4) at Mereenie west of town; producing gas fields at Palm Valley (west, OL3) and Dingo (south of town, L7); and a gas discovery (RL3) at Ooraminna, also south.

But there are huge areas south and north-east of town under exploration permits (see purple areas on the map).

There are conditions for production licences but they are clearly not insurmountable.

Says the department: “An exploration permit holder must apply for a production licence and undergo assessment including an ‘appropriate person test’ as required under the Petroleum Act.

“A production licence is a form of tenure, it does not solely authorise the holder of the licence to produce petroleum for commercial operations.

“A licence holder must also seek activity approval to drill production wells or undertake production activity under the Petroleum (Environment) Regulations, amongst other approvals.

“A production licence is granted for 21 or 25 years in accordance with the Petroleum Act.”

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association has declined to comment but a source speaking on condition of not being named says if a Territory Alliance government rules out fracking as part of the conditions for production, the issue would almost certainly finish up in court: Companies have explored in good faith with Gunner government approvals, after it lifted the moratorium it had campaigned on during the 2016 election.

In NSW the government canceled exploration permits, but faced heavy buy-back costs, says the source.

Meanwhile according to the Australian LNG Monthly lower oil prices are having a significant effect on Australian LNG with extended maintenance, continued cargo deferrals, lower prices and asset write-downs. LNG revenues are down 52% on a year ago.

We have asked Matt Paterson to comment. He is the Territory Alliance candidate for Namatjira, where significant areas are under exploration permits.

Photo at top is part of the cover of the party’s policy position paper.


UPDATE Aug 13, 9.40am

Mr Paterson replied:-

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.
To be clear, I do not support unconventional hydraulic fracturing otherwise known as fracking.  My view is that the risk is too high and there are too many unknowns in terms of the environmental effects of this practice in particular around the effect on ground water.  My position on this won’t change.
NT Government monies and effort need to be focused on bringing mines that have been otherwise delayed online, and to attain a greater benefits from traditional gas industry activities.
In addition I am focused on supporting and preparing our tourism industry to be ready with the best possible offering and best possible marketing package for 2021.
If people hadn’t noticed four years of the current incompetent Gunner Labor Government have delivered us an economic crisis.
As much as Mr Gunner and Co want to bang on about how great they are for following health advice, which all governments did, in terms of COVID-19, the fact is that Labor have no plans to get us out of this crisis but Territory Alliance does.  And our plans don’t involve pouring money into fracking but rather on what will deliver benefit to the Territory.

UPDATE August 16, 2020

Dates of explorations permits (see map above) being granted, renewed or surrendered, provided by the Department of Primary Industry and Resources:–

EP82 02/09/2005 / renewed 30/01/2013

EP93 01/11/2004 / renewed 30/01/2013

EP97 21/10/2001 / renewed 23/05/2011

EP105 28/09/2007

EP106 28/09/2007 / Surrendered 26/5/2020

EP 107 28/09/2007 / renewed 21/05/2014

2 EP112 1/07/2005 / renewed 22/08/2016

EP115 17/08/2007 / renewed 07/08/2015

EP125 07/12/2005 / renewed 22/08/2016

EP134 26/02/2008 / renewed 26/05/2016

EP145 22/08/2014

EP106, was surrendered on 26 May 2020.

Exploration permit information can be viewed via the department’s web-mapping application STRIKE by selecting the relevant exploration permit area on the map.


  1. I am ashamed to admit that when I was younger and ignorant, I used to bury the old oil from my car oil changes in the garden.
    I also used to wash dirty car parts in petrol or kerosene and also tip it in the garden somewhere.
    Upon learning that the risk and destructive nature of this practice would be to the water table and surrounding soil, I ceased doing it.
    Very simply put, when fracking goes bad and it will, probably by some freak of nature or human error, wouldn’t the end result be the same or very similar?
    IF our water tables are contaminated, what will we do?
    People need to either look up or remember, Deep Water Horizon and Exxon Valdez.

  2. With such a strong focus on fracking it should be noted that conventional gas exploration is the norm rather than the exception.
    One example is Dukas in the Amadeus Basin.
    This is a conventional non fracking prospect that could contain several trillion cubic feet of gas.
    When it was first drilled the rig penetrated an exceptionally over-pressured zone above the target reservoir, but not before mud gas samples had indicated a combination of hydrocarbons including Helium.
    Helium is worth 10 times the gas price.
    The gas pressure exceeded the blow out protection of the rig. It was off the normal scale and ever since then the operator Santos has been trying to secure a heavy duty rig that can withstand the pressure.
    Domestic Australian gas prices remain high and the Dukas prospect could support local industry and be worth tens of millions in royalties flowing to the NT Government.
    Maps showing exploration permits can be misleading in the debate on fracking.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here