AFTER a long court battle, Santos has finally begun irrigating crops with treated water that has been extracted as part of its coal seam gas exploration project in the Pilliga forest near Narrabri.
A Santos spokesperson said a pivot irrigation was being used on a 50-hectare section of the property, which has been planted with barley.
“In order to extract natural gas from underground coal seams, the pressure in the seam must be released – this is done by removing the salty water which is also found in the seam,” the spokesperson said.
“This water is not the water typically accessed by agricultural users and the community, it comes from much deeper underground, and in the Narrabri area is about a half to a third as salty as seawater.
“This salty water is now being treated at the recently completed reverse osmosis plant at Leewood.
“There are a number of checks and balances in place during the process to ensure the water meets Australian and NSW irrigation standards before it is beneficially reused for irrigation.”
LEEWOOD LEGAL BATTLE
The irrigation comes after a long court battle between the gas giant and environmentalists, who argued the Leewood water treatment facility was approved illegally.
In November 2015, Narrabri-based group People for the Plains announced it would take Santos and the NSW government to the NSW Land and Environment Court.
The facility was assessed as a petroleum exploration project, but the group says it should be treated by the government as a “waste or resource management facility” and therefore as an independent project.
Santos successful defended itself when the case was heard in August the following year.