While Territorians await the final report from the inquiry into hydraulic fracking, to be released next month, the NT’s largest onshore gas producer is ramping up production.

Central Petroleum will be drilling up to four new wells in March, in an effort to source gas to fill the Northern Gas Pipeline.

The $800 million pipeline will run from Tennant Creek to Mt Isa, and is due to pipe its first gas at the end of the year.

As Central Petroleum use conventional methods to extract the gas, rather than unconventional extraction, or ‘fracking’, the current NT moratorium in place does not apply to their wells.

Central Petroleum’s Operations Manager James van Rooyen checks the East Mereenie number 7 well.

Two of the new wells will be created on the company’s major operation, the Mereenie field, located on Aboriginal land about 250 kilometres west of Alice Springs.

The field has gone through a number of changes in its 30 years, more recently company Santos sold half of the venture to Central Petroleum in 2015, and then sold the other half to Macquarie in 2016.

In Central’s words the field had been “capital starved” for a few years, but the company said that would soon change, with new markets opening up and a supposed gas shortage looming.

How the gas is extracted

ABC Rural was granted access to the Mereenie field, to see how the gas is extracted and processed.

Standing at East Mereenie number 7 well, Central’s operations manager James van Rooyen said because of the geology and where the gas was located, the company did not have to stimulate the rock.

“The simplest analogy is a whole series of steel casings, and the final tubing acts like a straw,” he said.

“We effectively drill into the sandstone, we then reduce the pressure at surface, and the natural reservoir pressure drives the hydrocarbon into the steel tubing, and [then] out [again].

However, Mr van Rooyen said hydraulic fracturing had been trialled on the site in the past, but there were no plans to use the method in the future.

“At this present time, we have no intention of stimulating the reservoirs, because the reservoirs are flowing naturally… nature’s done a much better job than we could ever do,” he said.

Originally Published by ABC Rural, continue reading here.