Monday 10 December 2012


The number of community members outside  Metgasco's Glenugie drill site increased this morning because of the expected arrival of the drill rig. The crowd continued to grow throughout the day.

During the morning a truck carrying equipment and a number of other smaller vehicles approached the site.  These were delayed for some time because of an accident with a bicycle and traffic congestion near the site.

Community members entered into the spirit of the season singing carols around a Christmas tree which had been placed in front of the entrance to the drill site.  The crowd  effectively blocked the entrance so that around 4 pm the Metgasco convoy left the site.

It is expected that they will return tomorrow - presumably with an increased police presence.

Sunday 9 December 2012


On Tuesday 4th December the vigil outside Metgasco's  coal seam gas well site at Glenugie became a blockade when trucks carrying fencing arrived.  The number of protesters grew as the news spread.  Six local police were in attendance to clear a passage so that the trucks and other vehicles could enter the site.  Waiting on the site for the equipment was one Metgasco employee – reported as being Stuart George, former Richmond River Councillor and son of Thomas George, Member for Lismore.

Metgasco convoy

 The first major impediment to Metgasco was a campervan  parked on the side of the road and blocking access to the site gate.  Having misplaced her vehicle's keys, the owner was unable to comply with a police order to move it out of the way.  Eventually a recovery truck arrived from Grafton.  The camper was winched onto its tilt tray and driven out of the way.

Protesters blocking access

Once the access was clear, protesters moved in, milling around and blocking the way.  The leading utility moved forward steadily, pushing the protesters back.  While this was happening, local resident Deb Whitley locked herself on under the second truck which was some distance down the hill and away from the police.

Deb Whitley locked on.

Releasing Ms Whitley took some time. The police were unable to cut her free; an ambulance attended for a short time and then a Police Rescue unit arrived and managed to release her.  The arrival of about eight riot police in a van saw additional pressure put on the protesters to move out of the way.  After some discussion, they did so and the Metgasco convoy drove onto the site at around 4.15 pm after  being delayed some hours.

Since then a vigil has been maintained at the site.  The drilling rig is expected to arrive within the next few days.

Tuesday 27 November 2012


The Grafton chapter of Knitting Nannas Against Gas (KNAG) held a knit-in at the Glenugie anti-CSG protest site on Monday 26th November.  Protesters have been at the drill site on Avenue Road south of Grafton in the Clarence Valley since coal seam gas company Metgasco commenced clearing and construction activities in the previous week.

"The Nannas wanted to express their support for the protest at Glenugie," said spokesperson Leonie Blain.

"At this particular site there are serious concerns about the impact the drilling will have on the Coldstream River, a tributary of the Clarence River,  and the rural properties surrounding the drill site. "

"The Nannas are also concerned that Metgasco, despite its promises, has failed to keep the local community informed about its activities."

"We will be putting our concerns about Glenugie to local State Parliament member Chris Gulaptis when we meet with him this week," Ms Blain said.

Knitting Nannas from Lismore have also visited the site on a number of occasions to support the protesters.

Thursday 22 November 2012


Glenugie locals and members of the Lock the Gate alliance are furious that gas company Metgasco has commenced drilling at Glenugie without consultation with nearby landholders or any public notification that they had received approval for the works.

Local Sarah Fletcher is anxious about the potential impacts of the drilling operation on her property which lies downstream of the site on Avenue Road, just east of the Grafton Regional Airport and within the catchment of the important Coldstream wetlands.

“I was shocked to learn that drilling commenced yesterday,” Mrs Fletcher said. “According to workmen at the site, a 6 metre hole has already been drilled and a pad established for future drilling.

“This has come from out of the blue. We had a promise from Steve Gallop, Metgasco’s manager of Health, Safety and Environment, that all neighbours would be notified in writing but this has not occurred,” she said.

Mrs Fletcher will be joining other locals at a protest vigil outside the site today.
Lock the Gate’s Northern Regional coordinator, Ian Gaillard, who will also be joining today’s protest at the site, shares the locals’ concerns about the lack of transparency and communication in the process which has approved this work.

“Approval of this drill site is based on a consent given in 2010 for a well-site then proposed for an undisclosed location in Coaldale – 50 km to the north-west of the current site.

“Apparently an amendment to the review of environmental factors (REF) has been assessed for this new site – but this amendment and the new approval are not currently available on the Department of Resource and Energy’s website.

“We are calling on the NSW Government to address the community’s real concerns regarding the lack of consultation with relevant stakeholders in the planning and decision-making processes,” he said.

“With the shroud of secrecy clouding the approval process, is it any wonder that there is widespread lack of confidence in the Government’s promises to protect our water and air from pollution arising from the drilling process?

“We are calling for an immediate stop to all drilling for unconventional gas in the Clarence Valley. Recently released data on methane emissions from gas fields at Tara highlight the urgent need for baseline studies to be done before this industry proceeds any further in our region,” he said. 

        -  Media Release issued 21st November, 2012.

Friday 16 November 2012


The gas exploration company Red Sky Energy has recently claimed its pilot gas production well north of Whiporie is tapping into conventional gas reserves in 'tight sands', when only a few months earlier, they released a report for the Australian Stock Exchange claiming their exploratory drilling had identified unconventional gas.

I believe the gas industry is deliberately trying to confuse the community. Firstly they told us that the environmental and social disasters resulting from shale gas mining in the USA, which was exposed in the award winning documentary 'Gasland', is different to our local resource which is coal seam gas.

Natural gas, conventional and unconventional gas, shale, coal seam and tight sand gas. What does it all mean?

Natural gas is methane, the result of decomposition of vegetation deposits over millions of years. That methane comes from conventional and unconventional sources. The conventional source is methane that has leaked out of the coal seam and become trapped underground in large reservoirs which can be easily tapped by drilling down into it, and pumping it out through a limited number of well heads that can operate for many decades.

Unconventional gas is that methane that has either remained in the coal seam (coal seam gas), or has also seeped out but instead of accumulating in large reservoirs, has then become trapped in other underground shale deposits (shale gas) or, as is the case in the Clarence Valley, in sedimentary sandstone (tight sand gas).

All these unconventional deposits require some level of “stimulation”, i.e. breaking up the underground rock layers to release the gas. This is done using relatively new technology that allows horizontal drilling along the rock seam so that hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” can be undertaken.

Fracking is the process of pumping a mixture of water, sand and a variety of chemicals under extreme pressure to smash up the rock seam. The sand is forced into the cracks to keep them open, and the fracking process may have to be repeated several times over the life of the well, which is generally about 15 years.

Because there is a limit to the distance horizontal drilling can go, an unconventional gas field requires multiple well heads, all connected by above ground pipelines and roads, and the cracking of the rock layers increases the risk of disrupting aquifers and polluting underground water. Methane leaking along the newly formed cracks into the water table, is what is seeing water bores in Queensland spewing out more gas than water, to the point where they can be set alight.

Fracking also leads to methane leaking upwards along those cracks directly into the atmosphere, which are referred to as “fugitive emissions”, and go largely undetected and are unmeasurable. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. So these fugitive emissions are making a significant contribution to climate change.

Unconventional gas wells are closed down when gas flows drop to levels that are no longer commercially viable. So after some 15 years of production the well is sealed to prevent the remaining methane from escaping. However, those fugitive emissions will continue to flow forever, and the cement casings that line the borehole will all fail over time and also begin to leak methane. In the USA upwards of 50% of sealed wells were found to be leaking within 8 years of being abandoned.
      - John Edwards