That prior to the grant of any further exploration approvals, in consultation with industry and other stakeholders, the Government develops an enforceable code of practice setting out the minimum requirements that must be met to ensure the integrity of onshore shale gas wells in the NT. This code must require that:
- all onshore shale gas wells (including exploration wells constructed for the purposes of production testing) be constructed to at least a Category 9 standard (unless it can be demonstrated by performance modelling/assessment that an alternative design would give at least an equivalent level of protection), with cementing extending up to at least the shallowest problematic hydrocarbon-bearing, organic carbon rich or saline aquifer zone;
- all wells be fully tested for integrity before and after hydraulic fracturing and that the results be independently certified, with the immediate remediation of identified issues being required;
- an ongoing program of integrity testing be established for each well during its operational life. For example, every two years initially for a period of 10 years and then at five-yearly intervals thereafter to ensure that if any issues develop, they are detected early and remediated; and
- the results of all well integrity testing programs and any remedial actions undertaken be published as soon as they are available.
Action item updates
The Northern Territory Government has worked with independent scientific experts to develop a Code of Practice relative to the Inquiry's recommendation. The Code is legally enforceable through the Petroleum (Environment) Regulations 2016. The finalised Code was published on 12 June 2019 and can be found here.