A Perth-based resources company will drill for gas off the coast of Newcastle after it cancelled a plan for further seismic testing in the area, if it wins approval from the Commonwealth regulator.
Advent Energy, a subsidiary of MEC Resources, had been looking to conduct 3D seismic testing in a 500-to-1000 square-kilometre patch of Petroleum Exploration Area 11, which stretches from the Hunter to northern Sydney.
The plan attracted vocal opposition from parts of the community since before the previous round of testing took place in early 2018.
Advent Energy managing director David Breeze told the Newcastle Herald on Wednesday the company found gas during the 2018 exploration and it was finalising a timeline for drilling off the Hunter coast.
An approval process awaits through the Commonwealth's independent regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority.
Mr Breeze said the decision was taken not to proceed with 3D seismic testing for "technical reasons" and the company received advice from a geologist to go ahead with drilling.
"The last time we drilled off the coast there was in 2010," he said.
"The rig came in and was there for about 25 or 30 days. The drilling proceeded without any issues at all, not even environmental and community issues.
"It was done very safely and that would be what I would envision the next drilling stage would be like, in terms of duration and process."
Community environmental group Save Our Coast's spokesperson Natasha Deen said it was a win that the plan for further seismic testing, which involves shooting acoustic pulses into the ocean floor to create a profile of what lies beneath, would not go ahead.
The group has arranged several protests in recent years, motivated by concern about the potential impact of the gas exploration operation on the environment and marine wildlife.
But Dr Deen said she was "deeply concerned that drilling for gas in a climate emergency is still being planned".
"In the wake of catastrophic, unprecedented bushfires that have resulted in tragic loss of life, devastated communities and decimated wildlife and habitat, to be allowing drilling for gas off our coast in this climate emergency is incomprehensible," she said.
"We need strong leadership in renewable energy to prevent further climate damage, not blasting and drilling for more fossil fuels that will devastate our local environment and accelerate our path towards further climate damage."
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