Home > A Little Blue Marble Called Earth, The Body Politic > Did the Minister lie to New Zealand?

Did the Minister lie to New Zealand?

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On 15 April, Minister of Energy and Resources, Phil Heatley, appeared on TVNZ’s Q+A  for an interview on the controversial subject of fracking.

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Fracking has been banned in several countries because of fears it causes earthquakes. The process forces water and chemicals at high pressure into layers of rock to release natural gas or petroleum, and has raised health and safety concerns because of the poisons involved.

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Heatley appears to have made up his mind on the issue, saying,

No. I’ve got no concerns.”

The Minister seemed more focused on potential job creation, citing Taranaki’s petroleum industry,

Well, we know that in the Taranaki, you’ve got about 30- 3500 jobs directly– “

And,

“… in Taranaki, they’ve been doing it for 20 years, and they’ve had no problems.”

When the interviewer, Shane Taurima, asked about the potential of  fracking to cause earthquakes – as has been documented overseas – Heatley replied,

Well, it appears from Taranaki’s experience of two decades, water-quality testing, seismic survey-

… they’ve advised me that where we do it in New Zealand, in the Taranaki, it hasn’t caused it there, and that gives me confidence.

Shane Taurima then referred specifically to fracking around Christchurch.

In November last year, Christchurch’s Spreydon/Heathcote Community Board  unanimously  passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the process,

The following Notice of Motion was submitted by Paul McMahon:
The Board received the notice of motion:
1.1 and 1.2 are noted in item 11 of this agenda.
1.3 That the Board request the Council to call for a moratorium on any hydraulic fracking in
Canterbury until an independent inquiry into the risks have been conducted by a suitable body
such as the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
The Board received the notice of motion and, with the consent of Paul McMahon, the addition of
attachment A maps of the permit areas, clause 1.2 and clause 1.3. The Notice of Motion was
seconded by Karolin Potter and being put to the meeting was declared carried unanimously.”

Heatley was questioned specifically on Christchurch’s move (@ 9.30 into the interview) to impose a moratorium,

SHANE
Because- Because the Christchurch City Council are the latest to declare their city-

PHIL
That’s right.

SHANE
free of fracking. They cite these concerns over water contamination and over the links to earthquakes. Are they simply overreacting?

PHIL
Well, the Christchurch City Council have decided unanimously to ban fracking. There has never been any fracking in Canterbury. There currently isn’t any fracking in Canterbury. And wait a minute. There’s no intention to have any fracking in Canterbury, so this council has suddenly come together, made a unanimous decision to-

Minister Heatly is either deliberately lying, or is woefully ignorant.

At least two  permits have been issued which will most likely involve fracking to be conducted around Greater Christchurch and south of the city, in Canterbury. A third permit (# 38264) refers to an area east of Bank’s Peninsula, and extending out to sea, potentially involving another contentious issue; deep sea drilling (by Anadarko).

Permit no 52614 has approval pending.

Permit no 52605 was aproved on 20 September 2011, to L&M Energy Limited. The Permit is of  an exploration type, with a duration for five years from issuance. An area of 3,600 square kilometres is involved.

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L&M Energy states on their website regarding their Canterbury project,

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L&M Energy Coal Seam Gas Permits

PEP52605 (South Canterbury) – 100%

PEP52605 (South Canterbury) is a 3,600km2 onshore permit located in the Canterbury Basin which was granted to L&M Energy on 20th September, 2011.

Prior exploration in this permit area has been minimal, with drilling generally undertaken in order to extend existing coal mines. Four coal and two petroleum wells were drilled in the 1970’s.

Because of the relatively unexplored nature of this permit, limited data is available.  In order to address this insufficiency, L&M Energy’s work programme includes extensive geological modelling and analysis. Additionally, the Company will look to assess the permit potential and evaluate structures, adding considerably to the knowledge base of the area. For more information, see our full work programme at the link below.

See: PEP52605 (South Canterbury) Permit Map from the New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals Website

See: PEP52605 (South Canterbury) Work Programme from the New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals Website

Whilst none of the above documentation refers directly to L&M Energy Ltd, and the company does not readily refer to it’s use, L&M obliquely acknowledges employing the process. The following is known for certain,

  • Permit #52605 is intended to prospect for coal seam gas
  • Coal Seam Gas is extracted by the use of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)
  • L&M Energy refers to hydraulic fracturing on their website, “…In the USA recent advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have lowered the cost of production and increased reserves very rapidly, such that shale gas is now a major contributor to USA gas reserves.
  • L&M Energy’s 2010 report, “Commercialising Coal Seam Gas in Southland”  visually depicts the  “fracking” process, though does not refer to it by name,

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Source

So is  L&M managing director, Kent Anson, telling us the complete truth, when he was quoted on 7 November last year as stating,

L&M has not undertaken fracking in the permit, is not currently undertaking fracking in the permit, and has not formed a plan to undertake fracking in the permit.”

Yet, a month prior to that story in the ‘Canterbury Star‘,  when Kent Anson was interviewed on Radio NZ’s  ‘Checkpoint‘,  he stated categorically,

We wouldn’t handicap ourselves by any means. We will review all areas, involve all stakeholders during that process, but it’s not something which we wouldn’t discount.”

Perhaps  L&M Energy may well be honest when they state that they won’t be employing fracking  during  their exploratory phase of Permit 52605. But  if coal seam gas is discovered in commercial quantities, then the company will most likely  resort to that process because it is a cheaper option. As L&M states on it’s own website,

In the USA recent advancements in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have lowered the cost of production and increased reserves very rapidly, such that shale gas is now a major contributor to USA gas reserves.” – Source

So when Minister Heatley stated on Q+A last Sunday,

There has never been any fracking in Canterbury. There currently isn’t any fracking in Canterbury. And wait a minute. There’s no intention to have any fracking in Canterbury…”

How can he state there is “no intention to have any fracking in Canterbury” when even L&M’s  managing director, Kent Anson admits that, “it’s not something which we wouldn’t discount“?!

The evidence is clear that L&M Energy has been using fracking in Taranaki, and most likely will use the process in Canterbury.

Minister Heatley is either woefully ignorant of his own portfolio and worryingly doesn’t know what the drilling industry is up to – or he’s telling us fibs.

Either way, Heatley and National need to be up to speed on this issue. “Fracking” has been associated with earthquakes in the United States, and using such a process in a seismically-active region like Canterbury has to be one of the craziest notions yet considered by any corporation or government.

Cantabrians have a right to be concerned at L&M’s intentions. Indeed, this is not just a matter of fracking-chemicals polluting water tables and other environmental concerns – but is likely to be a matter of life and death for people in and around Christchurch.

Nature has been pretty tough on Cantabrians in the last twelve months. The last thing these folk need is more earthquakes – this time caused by stupid human activity.

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Postscript

DIGGING INTO SHAKY GROUND

Does fracking cause earthquakes? In Canterbury, where L&M is exploring for coal seam gas, this question is at the forefront of the fracking debate. The answer, according to a US geophysicist who specialises in induced seismicity, is yes. American geophysicist Michael Hasting told a Christchurch public meeting late last year that the injection of fluids deep underground under huge pressure – in the order of 7000 to 10,000 PSI – causes the rock to fracture, producing “induced” earthquakes.

“You basically need these earthquakes to produce the fracture system and permeability in reservoirs.” Most are too small to feel at the surface, with 95% smaller than magnitude 1. But Hasting says fracking can cause large earthquakes in seismically active areas. “If you’re injecting high-pressure fluids into a fault or near a fault that is active and near failure – that’s stressed to the point where it’s near to going – the fluids can lubricate the fault and cause it to slip.”

It has happened. “In Colorado at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, they were injecting fluids along a fault over a period of a few years and they noticed increased seismicity in the area. On August 9, 1967, they had a magnitude 5.5 event.” The project, which was to dispose of wastewater, was shut down as a result.

In the Swiss city of Basel, fracking at a geothermal project is claimed to have triggered several earthquakes in the magnitude 3 range between December 2006 and January 2007. It, too, was subsequently shut down. And in 1979 through to the late 1980s at a geothermal field in Baja California, there were several magnitude 5 events allegedly triggered by fracking, with the largest measuring 5.4. So, should fracking go ahead in Canterbury without first checking the earthquake safety of the region?

“No,” says Hasting, who stressed he was a supporter of fracking if it is done well. “You shouldn’t do it. It would be absolutely irresponsible to go out in an area like Canterbury, which is a known area of tectonic fractures, and start injecting fluids without understanding the reservoir, the system, and where you are injecting these fluids. You want to determine where these faults are and how close they are to failure before anything is done. You can’t 100% guarantee that you won’t induce a large event in a tectonically active area like New Zealand.”

Source

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References

Hydraulic Fracturing (“Fracking”)

Q+A: Transcript of Phil Heatley interview

Q+A: Video of  Phil Heatley interview

Report of a meeting of the Spreydon/Heathcote Community Board held on Tuesday 1 November 2011

Ministry of Economic Development Permit Summary #52605

Petroleum Exploration Permit #52605

Ministry of Economic DevelopmentPermit 52605 Report – 16/04/2012

L&M Energy Ltd

Canterbury Star: Fears fracking could cause quakes

Radio NZ:  Fracking could soon be used near quake city

The Listener:  Fracking in New Zealand

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  1. Clive @ large
    17 April 2012 at 10:53 pm

    You nailed him. The dick was lying. He just didn’t think anyone would find out and thought he could get away with it.

  2. mick
    18 April 2012 at 7:03 am

    What I don’t understand is why are they rushing into this fracking issue ? If we left the oil and gas where it is and waited for the research to prove the dangers are acceptable ,maybe 10 to 20 years from now the oil and gas will be worth a hundred times the price .”Sell high” isn’t that the capitalist ethos ?

  3. 18 April 2012 at 11:03 am

    Great work, Frank! I saw that interview and thought Heatley sounded confident about Canterbury – and it doesn’t at first glance appear a likely source of drilling/fracking – so he sucked me in with his glib responses. Thanks for uncovering the rest of the details.
    And I don’t think fracking has been all good in Taranaki – I’ve read an article with interviews of locals complaining about the water quality etc, possibly in Listener or Nth & Sth. It’s very worrisome all the earthquakes around the Pacific rim – Chch, mexico, Indonesia etc. We don’t need to imperil ourselves more by destabilising the land we depend on.

  4. Citizen Gee
    18 April 2012 at 11:48 am

    I wonder who will end up paying for more damage caused by quakes caused by fracking? The taxpayer that’s who. Lying politicians like Key and Heatly will just duck and never assume responsibility for anything. It’s ironic that Cantabrians voted for Brownlee. National will end up screwing them!

  5. 20 April 2012 at 3:12 pm

    What also worried me is he lied about Taranaki having no ground water problems. There is the Cheal site which has been proven to have been polluted.

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