It’s the 7000-page report that details everything the Santos Narrabri Gas Project is doing, but it’s not hard to see how we might all feel a bit overwhelmed staring down (literally) kilograms of paperwork.
And for all the information that it delivers about the project’s operations and impact, it’s not exactly an engrossing read. Gripping thriller or page-turning pot-boiler this isn’t.
Let’s put this in perspective. If you printed the report on single page A4 sheets, the entire document would stand just over 72cm high.
The good news is, we’ve done some reading and condensed the 7000-page epic into this three-part summary.
Each chapter links to the relevant section of the report and also to recent media coverage of the gas project.
Chapter 33 (References) and Chapter 34 (Terms and abbreviations) have been excluded from the summary.
Santos Environmental Impact Statement, Chapters 21 – 32
Most of the historical heritage sites relate to the Pilliga's logging history. Sites were categorised into timber extraction areas, sawmill sites, habitation and camping sites, timber loading ramps, logging tracks and other. Some sites had artefacts dating back to the 1890s.
Of the 53 sites identified to have heritage potential, Santos has committed to avoiding 21 sites through exclusion zones.
Main safety issue identified was traffic entering and exiting high speed roads such as the Newell Highway. The existing road network could accommodate peak traffic generated by the project, with no traffic delays expected.
As part of the project, two intersections of the Newell Highway would be upgraded, however the EIS does not indicate when the upgrade would happen.
The impact on landscape was deemed to be moderate to not significant, depending on the project area. Those to the north of the project would be more impacted due to less screening vegetation.
Light from well flares may be visible to some, but vegetation would reduce the impact. The flares are unlikely to cause an impact on the long-term operation of Siding Spring Observatory.
The annual direct emissions from the project are equivalent to less than 0.2 per cent of Australia's current annual emissions.
Over the lifecycle of the project, the emissions from the gas it produces will be nearly 50 per cent less than the electricity that is currently supplied to the NSW grid.
The project has two options - onsite power generation which would produce 0.96 megatonnes of C02 or electricity sourced from the national grid, which would create 0.53 megatonnes.
The likelihood of a bushfire igniting from a project related active was deemed removed, but the overall risk was assessed be medium given the potential consequences associated with bushfire.
Risk of loss of significant quantities of water resulting from failure of a pond wall was very low.
The risk of uncontrolled loss of gas leading to a fire or explosion was and the risk of uncontrolled loss of containment of liquid chemicals or dangerous goods are both low to very low.
There may be increased demand on housing and accommodation during the construction period. With more jobs, the project will potential help to gradually increase the residential population of Narrabri.
The report indicates "the increase in non-resident, typically single male population has the potential to impact on community values through potential anti-social behaviour and/or impacts on community cohesion.
The overall residual health and wellbeing risk was assessed as low.
Expected to generate a real economic output of $11.9 billion, including $11b in the Narrabri local government area, $572m in the wider region and $384m across the rest of NSW. About $120m will go towards the Gas Community Benefit Fund, which is used for local community projects.
At its peak construction phase, 1300 jobs will be created, substaining around 200 jobs through the operations, including about 50 existing.
The average direct and indirect employment of the 25-year project is 512 direct and indirect jobs, including 127 in Narrabri area, 161 in the wider region and 224 in the rest of NSW.
Santos says it will support the involvement of local business and contractors whenever possible.
The main waste from the construction phase are drilling cuttings and fluids. About 90 per cent of drilling fluid will be recycled and about half of the drill cuttings would be re-used on site.
Salt extracted from groundwater will be the other main source of waste – see Chapter 7 in the first explainer for details.
The report found the project would not result in significant cumulative impacts, a conclusion which is based off the combination of previous chapters.
The environmental management and monitoring process will be subject to regular independent audit..
There is public access to key water data via the Santos online water portal.
The framework uses the principles of adaptive management to ensure continual and time review of monitoring data, with a continuous improvement or feedback loop.
A 10-page list of all the things Santos promises to do if the project goes ahead.
Along with summing up the report’s key findings, the conclusion makes reference to the precautionary principle, which states “that if there are threats of serious environmental damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation”.
It also argues the project would provide inter-generational equity, benefiting future generations.