Beetaloo Basin fracking: Territorians slow Tamboran’s US megafracker

July 08, 2023 9:00 AM

Oranges, prams, coins, pedestrians, bikes stop truck in Katherine.

Katherine locals today slowed progress of Tamboran Resources’ ‘megafracker’ as it passed through their town on its way to the Beetaloo Basin. They dropped oranges and coins and used bikes, prams and shopping trolleys to halt a truck on the Stuart Highway, unfurling a ‘No New Gas’ banner at the central pedestrian crossing.

Photos and vision of the go slow available. Other relevant stills here and here. Short background below.

Territorians are continuing their long-held resistance to fracking the Northern Territory. The action follows a pregnant mother locking onto Darwin Port gates yesterday where the equipment has been stored.

Traditional owners, pastoralists, and locals are calling for a halt to all fracking exploration and production until the Fyles Government can show it has met its promise to properly implement recommendations of the Pepper Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracking in the NT.

Tamboran wants to use the megafracker to drill what its CEO describes as ‘three or four times longer’ than can be achieved with existing rigs in Australia, drilling horizontally for distances of over 4km underground.

Dr Sam Phelan, a local veterinarian, mother and member of the Katherine group Protect Big Rivers said, “If full scale fracking proceeds the Fyles Government will put at serious risk Territorians’ precious water and a liveable climate. We love this place. The Territory should not be made a sacrifice zone for the fracking industry. We cannot let this be our children and grandchildren’s futures.

“It is madness that the government is still entertaining Beetaloo fracking in the face of the climate emergency that is unfolding.

“It’s already so much hotter here than twenty years ago. In 2019 Katherine experienced 54 days over 40 degrees compared to our running average of 7 days per year. Climate modelling for the NT Government suggests that before the end of the decade in towns like Katherine, where my family lives, may become uninhabitable.

“The strain on our precious water supply became apparent in 2019 and the climate is changing rapidly. We do not want to become climate refugees in the future. The time to act is now.

“Peaceful protest is one of the tools we have to spotlight the dangers of this industry. We won’t stop until we’ve done all we can to convince the government to end fracking and embrace clean energy as the cheapest and safest way to power us forward.”

Djingili elder, native title holder and Deputy Chairman of Nurrdalinji Aboriginal Corporation, Samuel Sandy, who now lives in Katherine said, “They should pack up this monster fracker and ship it back home. It’s not going to bring jobs for my grandchildren or improve our lives, it will only see more money in the pockets of the gas companies.

“We have a responsibility to protect our country and look after it properly. The drilling will hurt our dreaming, our country, the animals and water. Everything will change, but not for good.

“When companies drill hundreds and hundreds of wells across our country, how can we take our kids fishing and hunting? These companies need to stop their digging, pack up their equipment and go home.”

Second generation cattleman from the NT, Daniel Tapp said, “There’s no place for fracking out here, You can kiss goodbye our water security, clean green cattle industry and wide open spaces which tourists from all over the world come to see.

“Using this megafracker when drilling and fracking will cross connect potable water aquifers with high pressured, high salinity aquifers in most areas, and will have serious and unacceptable consequences to our drinking and irrigation water.
“Industries like cattle, farming and tourism have long been the backbone of the Territory. Our cattle is a good sustainable product which is sought after worldwide at a premium price.

“Why are we putting it at risk for a fly by night, US company like Tamboran which just wants to dig and sell our gas to make a profit at our expense, while we pay some of the highest prices for gas from our own backyard?
“My father was one of the founding members of the NT Cattlemen's Association and the CLP and one of the pioneers of the country. He’d be rolling in his grave to think this is happening to this land.”


The Pepper Inquiry predicted over 6,000 wells could be drilled in the Beetaloo Basin if the fracking industry goes ahead with its plans. US led Tamboran Resources is now the biggest player in the region, having recently purchased Origin’s titles.

It is speculated that the mega fracker will be used for Tamboran’s EP 98 where the company proposes to drill 12 pilot production wells on Amungee Mungee cattle station, south-east of Daly Waters. Tamboran is seeking to convert these to full production wells as soon as possible.

Tamboran Resources is an ASX-listed gas exploration minor, which does not have any other interests apart from the NT and which is largely managed from the US. Tamboran claims to be targeting pilot development in 2023 and first production in 2025. Its major investors include Bryan Sheffield, a Texan billionaire whose family is in the oil and gas industry and Helmerich & Payne, the US’s biggest oil and gas drilling contractor which has shipped the megafracker from the US as part of a ‘strategic alliance’ with Tamboran.

Lock the Gate Alliance and GetUp recently referred Tamboran to the ACCC and ASIC, accusing the company of making “greenwashing” statements on the impact its fracking would have on the climate. Modelling on predicted temperature rises in Katherine here: Climate Change in the Northern Territory – State of the science and climate change impacts.