WA has proven it is alive to the fact that there is an increasing importance of unconventional gas resources, with the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) releasing on Monday its response to Dr Tina Hunter’s report on the regulation of shale, coal seam and tight gas activities in onshore WA.

Stakeholders should take a keen interest this response as it proposes amendments to provide for public disclosure of the chemicals used in fraccing operations, and of approved environmental management plans – information which is usually commercially sensitive. 

Dr Hunter’s report was commissioned by the DMP to provide an independent assessment of the existing regulatory framework for unconventional gas resources. Their response indicates that changes are afoot for the regulatory regime for onshore gas activities in WA, particularly on key issues associated with development of unconventional gas resources – with the reform package seeking to propose:

  1. legislative amendments to mandate full disclosure of chemicals used in fraccing operations and publication of approved environmental management plans on the DMP website
  2. new Resource Management Regulations to regulate onshore petroleum activities and which will:
    • specifically address field sterilisation
    • incorporate requirements for field abandonment; and
    • address onshore decommissioning
  3. new Environment Management Regulations to regulate onshore petroleum activities including gas from unconventional sources and which will:
    • clarify guidelines for management of produced water from fraccing processes; and
    • include management guidelines for produced water from abandoned wells.

The Resource Management Regulations and the Environment Management Regulations are expected to be released for stakeholder input by mid 2012 and end 2011 respectively.