Liverpool Plains gas opponents have vowed a “show of force” against plans to reactivate existing wells near Gunnedah.

It follows correspondence by gas company Santos to landholders near the Kahlua gas site, 20km west of Gunnedah advising them that four legacy wells would be reactivated.

Property owners in the surrounding area received letters from Santos outlining the scope of works which will see the previously sealed wells reopened.

Local landholders are concerned about the effect of these activities which they say threaten contamination of groundwater supplies.

Some members of the community were involved in “non-violent direct action” training at the weekend to prepare for their ongoing fight against gas extraction in the area.

Landholder and Liverpool Plains Action Group representative Philippa Murray said the letter “came as a jolt” to some who presumed Santos had given up on the project.

She said gas drilling was unwelcome in the area and this had been made plain to the company on numerous occasions and to successive state governments which have approved the project despite overwhelming community opposition and dwindling demand for domestic gas.

“There will be opposition,” Ms Murray told the Gunnedah Times.

“We are completely opposed to it.”

She said the direct-action training was effective but strictly non-violent and within the rule of land.

“We certainly don’t plan on breaking the law,” she said.

But she feared some people were in denial the project was going ahead given the lack of existing infrastructure, specifically pipelines to transport gas out of the area.  

Santos has also been approaching landowners along the route of the proposed Hunter gas pipeline to reach an access agreement. The NSW government granted the company an Authority to Survey which would enable access subject to certain conditions but this is seen as a last resort.

Santos recently undertook seismic surveys near Wandobah Road and has previously said the Kahlua site has operated under all necessary approvals.

“The Kahlua Pilot appraisal well operated in 2011 in accordance with licence holder conditions at the time. Under the renewed PEL1 and PEL12 exploration licences issued by the NSW government in April 2022, Santos proposes to reactivate the Kahlua pilot well using existing gas exploration infrastructure,” a Santos spokesperson said.

Ms Murray said the future of the Australia’s invaluable underground water resource was at risk.

“We are jeopardising our own country,” she said.

Gas finance analyst Bruce Robertson agreed and said the business case for the gas supply was riddled in doubt as well.

He recently met with Gunnedah Shire Council and detailed his reservations about gas extraction in the local area. 

Mr Robertson said the demand for gas does not stack up domestically or for export, pointing to new developments by the Victorian government to ban gas connections in new homes.

“Gas in is decline in the household,” he said. “Domestic demand is falling quite rapidly.

“The demand they claim is not there.”

He also warned the forecast benefits in the region, such as 1300 jobs during construction and up to 200 ongoing positions at the nearby Narrabri gas project, would not be fulfilled and were not worth the risk.

“It might provide a few (jobs) in the short term but at the risk of many,” he said.

According to Santos, Kahlua  is planned to start mid-2023. The maintenance work will occur over a three-month period. In line with its approvals, Santos said these works may require 24 hour operations for a very short period. The pilot wells will then operate for about two years to the end of 2025, to assess the resource potential. It is intended that the two-year appraisal period will be continuous, however, maintenance or downtime may occur that could result in a lengthier overall program.

Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson previously expressed his opposition to any gas mining on “prime agricultural land” and the Liverpool Plains.

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