The company in search of gas off the coast of Newcastle is a step closer to drilling, having told the Australian Securities Exchange it wants to ramp up seismic testing “at the earliest opportunity”.
But the Greens are accusing the company of announcing its plan “under the cloak” of New Year’s Eve.
The party is calling on the NSW government – which has previously stood against seismic testing off the east coast – to do more to oppose the operation.
Deborah Ambrosini, the managing director of MEC Resources – the parent company of Asset Energy – filed a statement with the ASX on December 31, which said results from 2D seismic testing last April “highlighted some interesting amplitude anomalies”.
The company plans to conduct 3D seismic testing – which involves shooting acoustic pulses into the ocean floor to create an image of what is underneath – at the 12.25 square kilometre patch off the coast of Newcastle.
The three dimensional version of the test uses a grid pattern rather than the straight line of a 2D survey.
“The PEP11 project remains highly prospective for the potential discovery of natural gas as previously reported,” Ms Ambrosini wrote.
“Acquisition of new 3D data at the earliest opportunity will be undertaken to support the premise that new gas discoveries can materially improve the energy security of the east coast gas market.”
Greens MP Justin Field said Premier Gladys Berejiklian should raise concerns with the federal government.
“The NSW community expects action from the state government to protect the marine environment, commercial and recreational fisheries and the valuable tourism assets that are NSW’s beaches and coastal areas,” he said.
“No longer can the NSW government be let off the hook for their mute opposition to this project that will allow our coast to be opened up to gas drilling and seismic testing that pose an unacceptable risk for ocean habitat, marine wildlife including migrating whales, and productive local fishing grounds”.
It comes after the company acquired the remaining 15 per cent share of PEP11 – the petroleum exploration permit for the area off the coast of Newcastle and Sydney – to become the sole licensee in October.
While the company has repeatedly said seismic testing would not have an adverse effect on the environment, opponents of the plan – including members of the fishing and tourism industries – say it would have a detrimental impact on marine life and whale migration patterns.
The gas exploration plan attracted hundreds of people to protest rallies in Newcastle last year.