Unconventional gas: managing risks and impacts

State governments Auditing Natural gas Australia Victoria


Unconventional gas is a collective term for three natural gas sources found within different rock layers in the earth’s crust, known as coal seam, tight and shale gas. Between 2000 and 2012 there was some exploration for unconventional gas but no commercial discoveries. In 2012, the government placed a moratorium on coal seam gas exploration—later expanded to all onshore gas.

This audit examined whether Victoria is well placed to effectively respond to the potential environmental and community risks and impacts of onshore unconventional gas activities in the event that these proceed in this state.

Victoria is not as well placed as it could be to respond to the risks and impacts that could arise if the moratorium is lifted, allowing unconventional gas activities to proceed. The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport & Resources (DEDJTR) did not sufficiently assess the risks or effective regulation of these activities prior to 2012, although it has made progress on this since then.

The infancy of the industry and the moratorium provide an ideal opportunity for the government to evaluate the full range of potential risks and impacts of unconventional gas. There is key work that DEDJTR needs to do to inform the government about risks, before the moratorium is reviewed. It will also need to better regulate unconventional gas development, should the government allow it to proceed, supported where necessary by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. DEDJTR can also improve its earth resources regulation more generally.

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