THERE is a new player in the Northern Rivers coal seam gas game.
Dart Energy has bought the exploration rights to 7100 square kilometres covering most of the Lismore local government area, plus Ballina, Byron, and out west beyond Woodenbong.
Petroleum Exploration Licence (PEL) 445 was previously held by Arrow Energy, a private company owned jointly by Royal Dutch Shell and PetroChina Limited. Arrow had sunk 15 wells in the area from 2002-2010, but have not been active here in the past two years, citing their operations in Queensland as a higher priority. CSG activists claim Arrow were also having trouble getting land access agreements and were deterred by the rising social movement against gas in the Northern Rivers.
Dart and Arrow were once part of the same company, but were 'de-merged' in 2010.
A spokesperson for Arrow Energy said it sold PEL445 "to focus on operating its Queensland domestic gas supply assets".
They would not disclose how much it was sold for.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange on Tuesday, Dart described the area as "highly prospective for coal seam gas as well as other unconventional and conventional gas deposits... Exploration results indicate that the area contains significant gas resources, which are over-pressured, contain significant free gas, and are generally close to 100% saturation with a gas composition regularly over 95% methane."
Dart's external relations manager Andrew Collins told The Echo he knows the company is not going to be in for an easy time given the community's overwhelming opposition to CSG.
"We know we need to engage with the community and build our social licence and we're committed to doing that," he said.
Mr Collins said he couldn't give a timeframe for when further exploration activity might begin.
"We need to wait for the transfer of the licence and do a resource assessment before we understand what our extraction strategy will be," he said.
Dart's head office is in Singapore and they have operations throughout Europe and Asia.
Mariann Lloyd-Smith from the National Toxics Network told The Echo that Dart has faced serious community opposition in Scotland and Belgium and has a court case running in Fullerton Cove (north of Newcastle) where residents are trying to stop a drilling operation close to residential developments because of health concerns. The company also had to abandon plans to drill at St Peter's in Sydney's inner-west.
"They have a record of not working well with any community," she said.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.