Towards a Frack Free World
As we all adjust to a Covid-19 world, we cannot afford to drop our guard on the key environmental issues at hand. The trajectory of fracking the Canning Basin pre-Covid-19 was heading towards an industrialised West Kimberley landscape.
Three main companies were aiming at high-value targets in a high-oil-price environment. The pandemic has left shareholders of oil and gas exploring companies facing a crash in value not seen for decades. April estimates of oil consumption worldwide show a drop of between 15 and 22 million barrels per day. The US alone is expecting close to a 50% decrease of gasoline (petrol) usage in April. Usually when consumption decreases, storage facilities come into play as usage will increase again in the short term. The problem the producers have now is that storage is full and there will be an estimated 20 million barrels per day (if they keep allowing wells to produce) with nowhere to go.
It is not just the decrease in consumption that is affecting the oil price. Russia and Saudi Arabia have flooded the market, driving prices down, which ultimately makes the industry unviable. Some say this is a deliberate act to wipe out the US shale fracking industry. This industry was already plagued with fiscal problems and is highly unlikely to be viable in a 20-USD-a-barrel world. Estimates for April are 10-USD-a-barrel - a benchmark not reached for more than two decades.
The Texas landscape (Google earth Texas and expect to be shocked) has regions with tens of thousands of wells, pipelines, pump jacks and well pads. This could be what the Kimberley landscape would turn into. The virus has put paid to that in the short term but we need to be vigilant and make sure our governments don't encourage this industry once the crisis is over.
We must not underestimate the size and scale of the Canning Basin oil-rich shale platforms. The Lower Goldwyer shale hydrocarbon prospectivity in the Canning is rated as 'second to none' against that of US platforms, specifically the Eagle Ford platform in Texas. The Eagle Ford shale play has more than 22,000 oil and gas wells in an area 80km by 650km. The Canning Basin is the size of Texas, with many geological platforms considered to be rich in oil and gas: the Laurel, Lower Goldwyer, Nambeet, to name a few. If the Lower Goldwyer is classed as a second-to-none resource, then just how many oil and gas wells could we have expected across the Kimberley savannah? This is a frightening vision.
Just as with the virus, we cannot afford to take our foot off the brake pedal. We must continue our pressure on the government and the industry until we rid this country of this destructive, polluting practice. As the Arctic methane continues to escape at rates many times faster than predicted, and the climate catastrophe continues to threaten our very existence, we must look forward wisely and create a world that does not treat our environment with disdain. We can do it, we must do it, and we will do it.