A group protesting TAG Oil’s plans to explore for a potential new gas field near Mt. Taranaki recently distributed a leaflet with incorrect and misleading information that our team felt compelled to address. While we know that oil and gas exploration – and energy consumption in general – can be a very polarizing topic, we’re still disappointed that the protesters chose to inflame the conversation rather than to have an informed discussion.
The call to protest was made by Climate Justice Taranaki and Frack Free Kapiti and Beyond – which published a brochure, Don’t Frack With Our Mountain.
COO Drew Cadenhead said he was happy to speak with the protestors, but it was clear that they had no intention of engaging in a measured conversation. “We respect the right of people to protest, express their views and take an active part in the debate. However, we think any debate should be based on empirical science-based information. [This brochure] is a disservice to those that may rely on this information.”
While TAG doesn’t want to lend credence to inaccurate information, we do want to engage in a dialogue with concerned groups and the larger Taranaki community, in order to facilitate open communication and eliminate misinformation. Therefore, here is our rebuttal to some of the claims made in the leaflet about TAG’s plans to explore for gas in PEP 54873.
Claim one: Drilling will take place 220 metres off the park boundary.
Response: The drill site is in a farmer’s paddock within permit boundaries set by the New Zealand Government. A condition of the permit is that any drilling must stay inside the permit boundary: There will be no drilling into the National Park. The actual surface location is over 300m from the Park Boundary, the well will go almost straight down, nearly 5000m, and actually end up a little further from the Park Boundary at total depth than it is at the surface.
Claim two: TAG Oil has plans to develop a heavily industrialised worksite.
Response: “Heavily industrialised” is an exaggerated description of a site that, at its biggest, will be no bigger than any of the manufacturing and processing complexes in New Plymouth’s industrial park at Bell Block. The drilling pad is approximately 190m X 90m (1.7 hec) where we will drill one well to start with.
Claim three: Eight oil and gas wells will be drilled.
Response: Our consent allows us to drill up to eight wells, but only if the initial drilling and testing demonstrates the field might be commercially viable. If it is not commercially viable there will be no more drilling. We calculate our chance for success with this first well is about 30%.
Claim four: Heavy vehicle movements and noise will become the new norm.
Response: Heavy vehicles will operate sporadically only during the mobilization and de-mobilization of the drilling rig – approximately two weeks on either end. Other than that, large truck movements on the roads around the wellsite would be less than is presently the situation with milk tankers, etc. in Taranaki. Furthermore, speed of trucks on the road to the well site will be limited to 30 kph.
Claim five: Toxic chemicals will pollute groundwater beyond repair.
Response: This is a deliberately inflammatory statement that is not supported by any empirical scientific evidence. On the contrary, Taranaki Regional Council testing of water around all of TAG’s oil and gas sites last year found no trace of hydrocarbons in any water samples. Our consents for this site mainly deal with rainwater discharge from the site: No industrial liquids are discharged at the site, they are dealt with at an approved and consented facility.
Claim six: Contaminated waste will lay in pits, be pumped into deep injection wells or spread on land.
Response: Any rock cuttings or drilling fluid will only be disposed of in a manner approved in the conditions of our resource consent. Land farms are a proven safe and controlled way to use drilling mud and cuttings to rehabilitate marginal land. Some water may be pumped back into the well, and absolutely no contaminated water will lay in pits.
Claim seven: A large flare will burn from a pit; it will sound like jet engine overhead, light up the night sky and release dangerous pollutants into the clean mountain air.
Response: If TAG makes a discovery we’ll want to sell the gas, not flare it. While a minor amount of gas may be flared for a short time as a safety measure, it would be flared into an approved enclosed container, not into an open pit—TAG Oil doesn’t use flare pits any longer as one way of reducing noise and waste. In regard to discharge, natural gas is regarded as the cleanest burning of all fossil fuels.
Claim eight: TAG Oil hopes to make use of this site for the next 30 years.
Response: If we find no gas we’ll use the site for a couple of months to drill the first test well, then reclaim the site. If we are fortunate enough to make a discovery, then it may provide gas and jobs and revenue for the country for many years. The potential benefits for the region and the nation are significant. During that time TAG will continue to manage its holdings responsibly, safely, following all regulations, and openly. And after gas exploration and any production are finished the site will be restored to how it was.
Claim nine: Decisions were made behind closed doors and without the knowledge of the Mountain Iwi and the wider community.
Response: On the contrary, New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals (the Government regulator) consulted with iwi late in 2012 about this permit before it was awarded to TAG. TAG has made numerous attempts to discuss the permit with iwi and hapu and will continue to do so.
Claim ten: TAG Oil operates only in New Zealand and recently raised $25 million and employed two US fracking experts in its evaluation of a 2,720,358 acre prospecting area.
Response: TAG Oil is listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and has its head office in Vancouver, and yes, all of its operations are in New Zealand. To date TAG has spent approximately $250 million in New Zealand and has not taken a cent out of the country. And indeed, the $25m recently raised from investors who consider TAG to be a well-run company with strong prospects in New Zealand, will also be spent in New Zealand.
TAG recently employed two unconventional oil experts—one whose expertise is in environmental management. Both are to work out of TAG’s new East Coast office on the Company’s East Coast permits. Fracking may be required to release some of the oil and gas known to lie below the ground on the East Coast, however, it is too soon to know whether it can or will be used there. Regardless of the technique, TAG Oil will continue to operate responsibly and conscientiously.