A best practice regulatory proposal for shale gas production

Simon Alexander Robb

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] Unconventional gas reserves are typically characterised by relatively low permeability, making these reserves more challenging — technically and commercially — to exploit than conventional gas reserves. The production of shale gas, an unconventional gas, is expanding worldwide. Most activity is occurring in the United States, while the industry is gaining momentum in other countries (for instance, Canada) or poised to begin (for instance, Australia and the United Kingdom). The rapid and increased interest in shale gas, along with the special characteristics of shale gas production, poses a number of challenges for industry regulators. These characteristics include the techniques of vertical drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The challenges associated with shale gas production raise a number of risks, particularly to the environment. Compared to other countries, the United States' regulatory regime is complex. The complexity is due to having to 'catch-up' to the rapid increase in shale gas activity and the interaction and tension between federal and state governments. In contrast, Western Australia’s response has been to review the State's regulatory regime for conventional gas and account for unconventional gas production where it was considered necessary. While Western Australia's approach is not optimal, it is coherent and anticipatory. There have been two dominant regulatory responses by jurisdictions to address the challenges associated with shale gas production. The first is to adopt a 'business as usual approach', which involves applying existing regulation for conventional gas to shale gas production. The second response is to adjust the regulation for conventional gas in an attempt to account for shale gas production. Both responses are rejected by the thesis — an unacceptable level of risk will result if either is used. Rather, a response in the form of fresh regulation is needed. To address the challenges and risks of shale gas production, the thesis proposes a best practice framework for the regulation of shale gas production. The framework has numerous features, which come together in a purposeful way to establish the framework...
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2014


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