Minimising Environmental Impact of Petroleum Exploration in the Australian Arid Zone

Organization: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy
Pages: 13
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1987
Petroleum exploration in the Australian arid zone has been proceeding at an ever-increasing pace, subject to financial fluctuations, since the 1960's. The impacts of petroleum exploration in the arid zone are less than they would be for corresponding operations in. e.g. a forest area: in this context, Australia is fortunate in that its major petroleum producing (and prospective) , basins are offshore or in the arid zone. In addition. the other major sources of impact in the Austrlian arid zone, namely pastoralism, tourism, and rabbits, tend to be concentrated around areas of particular conservation significance, whereas petroleum exploration is not. Despite this, the cumulative impacts of exploration are sufficient to have caused concern to government regulatory authorities and some sectors of the general public. Exploration is now subject to a range of environmental constraints with various degrees of legal enforceability. To enable exploration to continue without public opposition, the industry, and government agencies charged with regulating or supervising it, must demonstrate that the net benefits of exploration exceed net costs, including environmental costs. One particularly simple and cost-effective technique for increasing the net benefit/cost ratio of exploration is to reduce the net environmental costs by minimising and mitigating the impacts, both primary and secondary, of seismic acqisition. This is best achieved by a combination of preventive and restorative techniques: careful line positioning and low-impact (or zero) line clearance, coupled with simple rehabilitation of bladed lines. Line clearance without bulldozer blading - e.g. by rolling or simply pegging and trafficking, perhaps with tracked rather than rubber-tyred vibroseis - is one promising approach currently coming into use. Rehabilitation by grading soil banks ("windrows") back on to bladed tracks, though not yet in widespread use, has proved very successful in the limited areas where it has been applied to date.
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