Friday, 16 January 2015

Lifting the veil on Yes2Gas

This advertisement has been in the news in 2015:

If examined closely, readers can see that it is authorised by Louise Tout, Narrabri.

There is little information about Ms.Tout on the Internet, other than she is the spokesperson for Yes2Gas.

However, there is one short ABC radio interview with her on 2 December 2014.

In this interview Ms. Tout claims that the Yes2Gas group is one hundred percent local, one hundred percent independent. She also admits to talking to Santos all the time and that the ‘group’ doesn’t have an identifiable membership.

Ms. Tout stated in the radio interview that a few local businesses fund the group. A suspicion that these few may be Santos contractors raises its head.

Despite the lack of members,Yes2Gas does have a Facebook page (which has a subversive clone run by another person/group) and a website.

Website details:

The website was created on 29 September 2014, the registrant is listed as Kate Campbell (a Narrabri-based freelance photographer who is also the tech contact for this website), but its physical address is in the Sydney metropolitan area at 11 Colgate Street, Balmain NSW 2041:

There is a second registered website titled Yes2Gas - a parked site whose purpose is unknown. This site was registered by Kate Schwager of Wee Waa on 2 October 2014:


In an email dated 26 February 2016 Kate Schwager informed North Coast Voices that she no longer owns and that she initially registered this domain so that it could not be used to promote the gas industry.

So it is possible that the claim that Yes2Gas is a genuine grassroots community group may not hold up under scrutiny; having an unverifiable membership, shadowy funding and an Internet presence created hundreds of miles away from the Narrabri district.

The Yes2Gas quotes Max Davis of Rosewood, Narrabri, who ABC News tells us has a farm which is just a few kilometres from Leewood, a property south of Narrabri that's owned by Santos, and the location of what the company is calling a 'state of the art water treatment facility'. Leewood is a 246 ha property fronting the Newell Highway at Narrabri.

Mr. Davis' address may possible host this business:

Hopefully Max Davis’ cropping property is more than a few kilometres away from Leewood, as Santos proposes up to 850 production wells will be drilled across its Narrabri tenements:
Wells not drawn to scale and positioning potential only

But what of the claims in the advertisement?

Santos is an Australian company

Yes, Santos Ltd was established in Adelaide SA in 1954.

According to its Annual Report 2013 it had 112,397 shareholders and 970,270,108 fully paid ordinary shares listed on the Australian Securities Exchange at 28 February 2014.

However, despite the large number of shareholders, Santos states it is the top 20 shareholders who represented 65.09% of the total voting power in Santos by February 2013 and, these predominately institutional shareholders are not necessarily “Australian”.

Indeed the two largest shareholders, with a combined share percentage of 37.74% of all ordinary shares, are large U.K. and U.S. based investment banks.

HSBC Holdings plc (UK based, located in 75 countries and reportedly Europe’s largest banking group) is the largest shareholder through its subsidiary HSBC Custody Nominees (Australia) Limited (HSBC Bank Australia Limited) and, JP Morgan Chase & Co (US based international investment banking group) is the second largest shareholder through its subsidiary JP Morgan Nominees Australia Limited.

Santos is an excellent neighbour
as professional as Santos

So is Santos an excellent neighbour and professional in its business activities?

This is the area in which the Santos Pilliga/Narrabri gas project operates:

In 2014 the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) issued Santos NSW (Eastern) Pty Ltd with one clean up notice (29 July 2014) for its Narrabri NSW gas fields and one penalty notice for water pollution at its Bibblewindi Water Transfer Facility.

EPA Media release: 18 February 2014

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has issued a $1,500 fine to Santos NSW (Eastern) Pty Ltd following a pollution incident at their Narrabri Gas Field operations in the Pilliga.
In March 2013 Santos notified the EPA after results from routine ground water sampling around the Bibblewindi Water Treatment Plant showed elevated levels of total dissolved solids and slightly elevated levels of others elements.
EPA Chief Environmental Regulator, Mark Gifford said EPA staff immediately began an investigation into the cause of the elevated readings.
“Our investigation into the matter revealed the installation of the liner within Pond 3 was of poor quality which resulted in the integrity of the liner being questionable.
Pond 3 had historically been used to contain the water and brine generated by the gas field. Water quality testing by Santos of the surrounding aquifers showed elevated levels of total dissolved solids and other elements outside the average readings for the aquifers in the area,” Mr Gifford said.
“Further investigation showed the pond had been installed in 2007 by the site’s previous owner, Eastern Star Gas. A report Santos provided to the EPA showed there was no evidence that contractors, engaged by Eastern Star Gas, had carried out the necessary field testing, quality control or quality assurance during the installation, as is required by current government standards.
Santos has applied to the EPA for an Environment Protection Licence for this site. The EPA is close to finalising this application and has put in place strict conditions to ensure an incident of this nature is not repeated.
The EPL includes a legally binding Pollution Reduction Program requiring Santos to develop and implement a Groundwater Remediation and Monitoring Plan that is aimed at remediating that affected aquifers,” Mr Gifford said.

Contact: Emily Boyle

Further waste water non-compliance issues came to light.

EPA Media release: 28 March 2014

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is investigating a release of about 500 litres of produced water which entered a diversion drain at the Santos Narrabri Gas Field on Tuesday March 25.
The produced water entered the diversion drain during transfer from an assessment well to a holding pond.
Immediately following the release, the diversion drain was blocked to prevent the produced water leaving the site.
The produced water was captured and returned to the pond.
The EPA is undertaking further investigations.
The Government has designated the EPA the lead regulator of environmental and health issues associated with coal seam gas, and established the Office of Coal Seam Gas in NSW Trade and Investment to regulate other important issues, including petroleum titles, rehabilitation, safety and engineering standards.
Contact: Pamela Wilson

Newcastle Herald 5 January 2015:

A NEWCASTLE City Council-owned waste facility has been  receiving  contaminated coal seam gas waste from far-west NSW, and little is known about where it ends up. 
Environmental Protection Authority documents from 2013 accessed by the Newcastle Herald reveal the council-owned Summerhill Waste Depot was the destination for contaminated soil and waste from the Santos Gas Project in the Pilliga Forest.
Santos says the waste includes ‘‘soil, sediment and pond liner materials’’ removed as part of its $17million rehabilitation of the site following its takeover from Eastern Star Gas in 2011.
But the council won’t say what happened to the waste when it got to Summerhill, where it ended up, or whether it is still receiving the waste.
A spokeswoman said in a statement that Summerhill ‘‘operates as a landfill facility with basic recycling activities’’ and is ‘‘not a treatment facility for contaminated wastes’’, but did not say where the waste ended up. 
‘‘Council is not prepared to discuss any commercially confidential arrangements it has with any of the customers that use the Summerhill Waste Management Centre, this includes any details around waste and revenue receipts,’’ the spokeswoman said.

With the lesser known issue of air pollution being raised.

World Coal 7 January 2015:

Astronomers at the Siding Spring observatory in Australia have warned light pollution from a planned coalbed methane (CBM) development may force the observatory to close.
Siding Spring is the country’s premier observatory. The site of the Australian National University’s observatory, near Coonabarabran in New South Wales (NSW), currently benefits from clear, dark skies above it.
This environment allowed the observatory’s powerful SkyMapper telescope to discover the oldest known star, at 13.6 billion years old, in 2014.
Yet astronomers have voiced concern that CBM developments at gasfields around 50 km away could produce so much light pollution the observatory is rendered useless.
Dark skies are vital if astronomers are to pick out stars and other celestial objects in space.
Mining firm, Santos, plans to tap the area, known as the Gunnedah Basin, for gas sourced in coal seams.
Astronomers are also worried that material dispersed from CBM mining operations will prove corrosive to telescope lenses.
Peter Small, a technical support engineer for Siding Spring, said an existing CBM operation at Boggabri already gives off more light than the neighbouring towns of Narrabri and Gunnedah.
“We get light pollution from that – we even get light pollution from Sydney, which is 400km away, so you don’t have to be that close,” he said.
“This will reduce visibility. If there’s light pollution from anywhere, never mind about the gasfields, this site becomes unviable. It would shut down and all those local jobs would be lost,” he added. “I’d hope there would be a compromise, but no dialogue has taken place with Santos as yet.”....

Santos does not appear to be quite as good a neighbour and not as professional a corporation as Yes2Gas would have us believe.

Whoever the principal or principals of Yes2Gas are, they may have to be very active in 2015 if they are to support their favourite coal seam gas miner Santos Ltd through this.

The Sydney Morning Herald 8 January 2015:

Billions of dollars worth of projects face an uncertain future amid write-downs and job losses across Australia's battered oil and gas sectors as the global oil crash deepens…..
"You have to believe you're going to see enormous write-downs in particular from Santos and Origin – BG have already taken an initial write-down on QCLNG and alluded to the fact it could take a larger one."
Carrying values for some acquisitions made over recent years could also be at risk.
"I don't see how Santos could still carry Narrabri at the book value of the acquisition of Eastern Star Gas," Mr Samter said of Santos's NSW coal seam gas business, based on its $924 million takeover of Eastern Star in 2011.
Santos shares dropped another 1.3 per cent to $7.45 on Wednesday and are now 51 per cent down from their August high.
Steps it took last month to relieve pressure on its balance sheet, including a 25 per cent cut to its 2015 capex budget and an extra $1 billion loan facility, have failed to calm investor fears that it will eventually have to raise equity to protect its investment-grade credit rating. It is also considering asset sales.
Illustrating the extent of the impact of the lower prices on Santos, Mr Samter released research that found the company's equity is worthless if current oil prices and foreign exchange rates are assumed to persist forever.
The Australian 12 January 2014:
STANDARD and Poor’s has cut its oil price forecast for the third time in five weeks, in a move that will increase concerns Santos will be forced to raise equity to keep its investment grade credit rating.
The ratings agency already had Santos (STO) and Origin (ORG), which both have BBB credit ratings, on negative watch and has said further cuts to oil price forecasts could lead to downgrades for the two companies, which are both building LNG plants at Gladstone. The price of LNG is linked to crude oil prices.
“Over the coming weeks, we will be updating our assumptions, and we anticipate a number of corporate rating actions,” Standard and Poor’s said.

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