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Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations Under the Spotlight

July 15, 2022

Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

Proposed Regulations on the exploration and production of onshore oil and gas requiring hydraulic fracturing identify prohibited activities and prohibited geographic areas for the use of hydraulic fracturing technology.

The draft Regulations were recently published for comment in Government Gazette 47112.

In a statement, the forestry, fisheries and the environment department pointed out that the publication of the proposed Regulations comes four years after the Supreme Court of Appeal set aside the Regulations for Petroleum Exploration and Production.

The Regulations were designed to “set standards for the use of hydraulic fracturing technology on the basis that they were managing environmental impacts and only the Minister responsible for the environment was empowered to make regulations on environmental matters”.

According to the department, some prohibited activities outlined in the draft Regulations include the use of potable water for hydraulic fracturing activities and the use of municipal water treatment facilities for the disposal of wastes from hydraulic fracturing operations.

An environmental authorisation is required for each phase of the process including seismic survey without hydraulic fracturing, hydraulic fracturing and the production phase.

“This step-wise approach allows for information to be generated to support each phase of the process and will facilitate the consideration of cumulative impacts of the operation.”

The department also indicated that the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation will be supported by two Minimum Information Requirements (MIR).

“The first document will consider the environmental requirements for exploration anticipating the use of hydraulic fracturing and the second will consider the environmental requirements for exploration and production utilising hydraulic fracturing technology.”

The first MIR was published for comment in Gazette 46688.

A second MIR document dealing with the actual impacts of hydraulic fracturing will be drawn up in the near future.