The Victorian Government has declared bans on:  

  • approvals to undertake hydraulic fracturing or “fraccing” as part of onshore gas exploration; and
  • the issue of new exploration licences for coal seam gas (CSG).

This move follows the ban on fraccing by the New South Wales Government, which has been in place since July 2011.

The measures taken by the Victorian Government do not affect exploration activity approved under current CSG exploration licences that do not involve fraccing, such as surveying and drilling for core samples.

It appears that the bans are a response by the Victorian Government to the pressure exerted by regional community groups, as described in our blog entry of 13 June 2012.

According to the Victorian Government, the bans will remain in place until a national harmonised framework for CSG has been developed. The work program to deliver this framework was announced in December 2011 by Energy and Resources Ministers from across Australia, and results of that work are expected in December this year.

The Minerals Council of Australia has said the Victorian Government’s measures in relation to CSG are ‘profoundly disappointing’. In particular, it states that the decision to rely on the development of a national framework for CSG is ‘concerning’ as the framework may be delayed for years, meaning that Victoria would miss the opportunity to develop an industry that could generate jobs and significant revenue for the state.

Similarly, the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) has said that the Victorian Government’s decision to put the bans in place ‘sends the wrong message to investors and will see the state fall further behind Australia’s rapidly growing resource-rich states’.

There is currently no CSG production in Victoria, and exploration for CSG is in an embryonic stage. Fraccing does not currently occur in Victoria.