Johanna Evans presents the NWPA evidence to the IPC

I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the country we are gathered on here today. I pay my respects to Elders, past, present and emerging.

Thankyou to the Commission for this opportunity to present my evidence on behalf of NWPA. We are a member of the North West Alliance umbrella group. My name is Johanna Evans, I am from Kyogle and I have been searching for the truth about gasfields since 2012 when I observed a gas drilling operation 10km from my home. NWPA is a grass roots volunteer based group.

We strongly object to the Narrabri Gas Project and indeed coal seam gas anywhere.

My search for the truth led me to Queensland gasfields where I spent many weeks looking at the industry both on the ground, through company documentation, reading through numerous scientific documents and reports and speaking to impacted gasfield residents who have lived through the experience of becoming collateral damage to an export industry.

What I have seen can be likened to an invasion. A slow, creeping, insidious takeover of land air and water. The proponents attempt to justify the project are based on misrepresentation and a cherry picking approach to data and facts. Our submission will contain detailed examinations of gas composition, water baseline monitoring, health and other issues.

During our search for the truth in Narrabri we have witnessed and experienced an alarming and worrying series of events that are unrelated except by their common themes which are bullying and intimidation. I personally have been witness to events such as a Santos contractor throwing eggs at peaceful community members (he was charged with assault), a Santos drone flown into our proximity seemingly breaking CASA laws, I’ve seen Santos employees ‘rough up’ peaceful protectors whilst they were exercising their lawful right to protest,  I’ve seen numerous occasions of police misbehaviour, I’ve been followed off site into the bush by Santos security, filmed at close range and had a tracking device placed on my car (which was reported to police).

I am member of the CWA. In 2019 I attempted to go on the Santos Tour. I travelled to Narrabri to attend, Santos wrongfully accused me and another member of being charged with trespass and would not allow us on the bus.

Last week the Financial Times reported “rival groups have divided the community, with boycotts of some social and sporting clubs that accepted funding from Santos.” The facts are diametrically opposed in that some clubs in Narrabri have turned down bookings from the gasfield free movement under pressure from Santos. One club, cancelled a movie screening claiming it had overlooked a prior booking (this was proven false when investigated) and with just two days’ notice, another club cancelled a long-standing booking for a North West Alliance Conference addressing concerns regarding the risks and damage from unconventional gas mining in the Pilliga. Santos, who rang the club, threatened to refuse it sponsorship money if it allowed the meeting to proceed.

Last Friday a page we manage on Facebook that discusses the gas debate with 6,000 followers was coincidentally restricted for the week of the IPC hearing with no explanation and no apparent breach of Facebook policy. Suppression of the truth.

In regards to Santos being responsive to questioning about their operations, we have tried on numerous occasions to gather information. In nearly every instance we’ve had to resort to GIPA request and still dozens of questions, some nearly 12 months old, are unanswered through the malfunctioning Community Consultative Committee. Withholding the truth.

In NSW we are faced with a situation whereby the company Santos, and the Government refer to the “Queensland Experience” as being a positive one. When something is negative and bears further investigation government agencies in NSW, like the EPA, say “That’s Queensland, that won’t happen in NSW”. From our experience though Santos will operate in much the same way.

In respect to Queensland. We would like to highlight the NSW Planning and Assessment Commission Departments trip to Queensland that occurred in June 2017. They went to get a better understanding of CSG operations and were escorted by Santos around several sites. On a private “briefing and familiarisation tour”. This information was only revealed by GIPA. The truth is hidden.

Obviously then, if this is where NSW Planning was seeking understanding of the industry it must be noted that what happens in Queensland does apply here in NSW. Why would NSW Planning bother going to Qld if it did not apply here? The truth about gasfields does lie with Queensland experience.

We ask the Commission to look into the issue of microbiologically induced corrosion. It is an issue that impacts directly on well casing which purportedly is meant to protect aquifers from contamination.

Santos claim state of the art technology and a robust multi-barrier and tested system that will ensure isolation between the well and the surrounding environment. The WEP considered the potential corrosion risks to CSG wells and did not believe they presented a significant risk. This in our opinion is worrying and akin to blind faith in a company that have failing and corroded well-head equipment.

This quote from Charles Albouy of Schlumberger contradicts the WEP/Santos, he says, “Microbiologically-influenced corrosion seems to be systemic in the region [Surat], and other operators might encounter similar issues in their CSG wells.”

This quote was published in an article by Saltel Industries. This article was removed from the internet after it received unwanted attention. Questions were asked at the CCC about this issue and it was shut down with the EPA and Santos refusing to comment.

The DPIE Final Assessment report says: 348. The WEP considered the potential corrosion risks to wells, including the potential for acid attack due to carbon dioxide or sulphate-reducing bacteria. … the WEP does not believe that corrosion presents a significant risk to the project, and could be effectively mitigated by using suitable corrosion-resistant casings and cements if necessary.

Saltel, who make the product known as ‘Expandable Patches’, which are mechanical well repair patches, that isolate external bacterial corrosion are owned by gas industry well completion specialist Schlumberger. MIC can be incredibly rapid and eat through corrosion resistant alloys according to Saltel and Duret-Thual in Understanding corrosion: basic principles. There would be no market for this product if the problem did not exist, ignoring this risk is foolish at best and catastrophic at worst. Limited testing data is available for bacteria such as sulphate-reducing bacteria, this is a serious omission. This issue this has been continually highlighted by community for many years. SRBs have been blamed for causing MIC in oil and gas wells.

Santos have provided no clear proof that the resource they are targeting is economically prospective. Keith Spence, Santos Chairman told shareholders at the AGM earlier this year that they had 250 gathered samples 2014-2019 that show an average CO2 content of just under 5% in Pel 238.

Later a Santos staff member from Narrabri indicated to DPIE that far fewer commercial in confidence samples exist and Santos have refused to make these samples publicly available. The Commission must review all the available public data and existing geology reports. Did Keith Spence knowingly mislead shareholders?

NWPA believe that it is impossible to know where to drill to hit high percentage production quality methane in Pel 238 due to CO2 migration upwards through failting. This refutation is backed up by several scientific reports which I will detail in our submission.

NWPA have analysed over 1,000 publicly available pieces of sample data and concluded that the average CO2 content in gas across the Narrabri project is 25-30%, with some wells displaying 90% CO2 . The high CO2 and nitrogen content is a factor which has the potential to materially increase the greenhouse gas emissions from Narrabri and also the cost of production of the gas.

NWPA assert that the geology of the Gunnedah Basin is inferior to the Surat and as such is unprospective and uneconomic, we believe Santos know this and this points the finger to Narrabri Gas being purely a turnkey political approval that will open the door to spreading gasfields across the northwest.

Santos have stated that Phase 1 of the project will include further appraisal, this indicates that they have not yet calculated any actual reserve figures. This is from a company who have had years to do this work. This EIS cannot be approved on this basis.

My conclusion is that the logic stream is broken. In the absence of proper vigilance by NSW Planning we are forced to go to to extremes to reveal the truth. The truth walks slowly and this week it is knocking on your door. The Commission must let the truth in and reject this project and stop coal seam gas in NSW.

Thankyou commissioners for your time today, do you have any questions?

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