Katherine Times: Gas pipeline fire sparks Beetaloo fracking fear

March 08, 2024 1:31 PM

A high pressure gas pipeline inferno that has erupted in Central Queensland has triggered an outcry across those opposed to the construction of fracked gas pipelines in the Northern Territory.

On March 5, a gas leak sparked a fire at an underground pipeline in central Queensland.

The explosion, on the pipeline between Rolleston Compressor Station and Oombabeer, near Bauhinia, would demonstrate "why new fracking projects proposed by both Tamboran Resources and Empire Energy to pipe gas for sale are too risky and should not be built", the Territory's Frack Free Alliance spokeswoman Hannah Ekin said.

Tamboran Resources and Empire Energy have plans to build pipelines to sell fracked gas retrieved from their proposed exploration sites in the NT's Beetaloo Basin.

Emergency services set up an exclusion zone after the blaze began on the Queensland Gas Pipeline in the Central Highlands.

No injuries were reported and authorities are investigating the incident.

"What's happened today at Bauhinia Downs is clearly a disaster," Ms Ekin said.

"... It sounds as though it took authorities and emergency services some time to reach the incident due to its remote location.

"Fracked gas pipelines in the Territory would be located in even more remote places, and it's really concerning to think about how long it would take authorities and emergency services to respond, if a pipeline explosion happened here."

Ms Ekin said an entire regional city could lose power due to a single pipeline explosion.

"This is not a power source we can trust," she said.

"Here in the NT we shouldn't be hitching our energy future to dirty gas. This explosion is just another reason why we need to be investing in clean, safe, and reliable renewable energy, not dirty, polluting, and dangerous gas projects."

Chair of Nurrdalinji, Djingili Elder Samuel Sandy, who lives in Katherine, said if an event like this happened in the Territory "it would be a catastrophe".

"In the dry we have strong winds that blow across the Territory from south east of the Barkly Tablelands. The mix of spinifex, highly flammable gum trees and speargrass could turn a similar event into a catastrophe."

Mr Sandy said due to climate change the NT's fire risks were getting higher.

"In the Dry last year the fires in the Barkly were terrible, we'd never seen anything like it. We've seen grass plants burn for miles and miles, for three to four months at a time.

"If Tamboran and Empire get to build their new pipelines they're going to put countrymen, cattle stations, plants and animals at risk".

A Resources Safety and Health Queensland spokesperson said they were aware of the fire burning at the Queensland leak site and an inspector was at the scene.

"The section has been isolated and the incident is under control," they said.

Firefighters arrived and declared an exclusion zone, according to pipeline operators Jemena.

"We are currently working to understand the impact of the incident on our customers and other stakeholders," a Jemena statement said.

"Our current focus is on ensuring the safety of the site, community and our personnel."

The Queensland Gas Pipeline is 672km long, connecting Wallumbilla gas hub, near Roma, to customers in central Queensland.

It supplies gas to Gladstone and Rockhampton, mostly for industrial use.

Read the full story here. 

By Annie Hesse and Keira Jenkins
Updated March 7 2024 - 4:37pm, first published March 6 2024 - 4:00pm