Bentley blockade to be "mother of all dust-ups", says protester

Dawn at the proposed drilling site at Bentley.
Dawn at the proposed drilling site at Bentley. Jasmine Knight-Smith

"THE MOTHER of all dust-ups" is how one local has predicted the blockade against Metgasco's new Bentley drill site will turn out.

Bentley local Ted Hoddinott said preparations had continued in full swing since the first protest camp was set up last year.

The camp at the entrance to the planned gas well on Bentley Rd is now manned 24-7, with a separate "base camp" site nearby.

Metgasco defends Rosella well plan

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With the site just 12km from Lismore and publicity from the last two major protests at Glenugie and Doubtful Creek, the blockade is expected to attract widespread support.

Mr Hoddinott said the Knitting Nannas had offered counselling support for those who got arrested, while a Lismore hairdresser had even offered free haircuts for anyone who appears in court.

He said locals felt "abandoned" by politicians and the prospect that CSG was "polarising" the community.

"We're worried that if the well is successful, other landholders are going to come onboard (with Metgasco) and it's going to roll out quite quickly," Mr Hoddinott said.

Meanwhile, Gasfields Free Northern Rivers spokesman Aidan Ricketts has described Bentley as Metgasco's "last desperate hope".

"If Metgasco fails at Bentley, Metgasco is probably finished," Mr Ricketts predicted.

"If it gets what it wants at Bentley then the conflict simply lives on for another day.

"We know this community will fight every single exploration well, and it will fight a pipeline. The community is not going anywhere.

"The (Southern Cross) university research shows the community's resistance is strengthening, not weakening. More likely to change their mind are the small group of gas supporters, not the other way around.

"They (Metgasco) will either die now or face a death of a thousand cuts."

Metgasco boss defends drilling plan

METGASCO's first exploratory well since it suspended operations last year has been given the green light by the NSW Government.

The company has announced it hopes to start drilling at the Rosella E01 well at Bentley, 12km west of Lismore, in April.

The 2100m well will test the "conventional and tight gas" potential of the Greater Mackellar structure, a possible sweet spot for freely flowing gas.

Metgasco chief executive officer Peter Henderson said if the well showed promise, the company would seek approvals for further testing.

"If the well is not successful, we will plug the well, fully decommission it and fully rehabilitate it," Mr Henderson said.

While Rosella is not a CSG well, gas opponents argue the nature of "tight (sands) gas" extraction is similar to coal seam gas, probably needing multiple wells to generate commercially viable flows.

But Mr Henderson said the difference between conventional wells and tight gas wells was one of "semantics".

"All a tight reservoir is, is a rock which doesn't flow gas very easily," he said.

"People have been using different techniques for years to try to make the gas flow at faster rates.

"In this particular well we are hoping the gas will flow at rates that are commercially attractive without the need to do anything more.

"If we're lucky, then yes, there will be more wells drilled in the area... (but) we will minimise the number of wells and we'll also drill them from a single well pad to minimise the impact on the environment."

Topics:  coal seam gas, csg, lock the gate



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