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Fracking Risks

Polling has shown that over 80% of Territorians oppose fracking. Yet, the Territory and Australian governments are pushing ahead with this dangerous industry in the NT.

Poisoning Groundwater

Fracking for shale gas is an extremely water-intensive practice that also uses a range of potentially dangerous chemicals. Major concerns are held for the rivers, wetlands and groundwater aquifers of the Northern Territory if gas fracking moves into full production.

In the NT we rely on our groundwater aquifers for our drinking, agricultural and recreational sources of water. Research by Charles Darwin University has found that these aquifers are connected across vast areas – which means that any leaks, accidents or contamination from fracking could spread through these water systems.

Proposed fracking projects in the NT’s Beetaloo Basin threaten so many precious places – including the recharge area for Mataranka Hot Springs, the mighty Roper River, and Jurrkulu-Ijibarda (Lake Woods) and upstream areas.

Jikaya (Lake Woods) is the Northern Territory's largest inland lake and is of enormous cultural significance to Traditional Owners, as well as being internationally significant for birdlife. Lake Woods meets five criteria for Ramsar listing as an internationally significant wetland, including being an important aggregation site for over 20,000 waterbirds.

Climate threat

If the fracking industry proceeds as planned, experts predict that the greenhouse gas emissions will be double the annual greenhouse gases released by all cars in Australia, or as much as four times the total Northern Territory annual emissions each year. Four times as big!

This would blow Australia’s emissions targets and make a huge contribution to dangerous climate change and global warming.

Territorians are already facing more extreme weather events such as fires, floods and heatwaves due to climate change. In Darwin it’s predicted that extreme heat days over 35 degrees could increase to 132 days each year by 2030, and 275 days each year by 2070. This is up from just 20 days a year in 2018!

Parts of the Northern Territory could become intolerable due to extreme heat and the impacts will be especially felt by those living in remote and regional areas. Even playing sport or working outdoors will become incredibly difficult or impossible for much of the year.

The NT Government Is Failing

The comprehensive Fracking Inquiry conducted by Justice Pepper from 2016-2018 made 135 recommendations that would have to be implemented in full to limit the harm from fracking to the Territory. 

Most importantly, it found that the risks to groundwater were too great and the science too uncertain to reach any firm conclusions. 


In 2023, the NT Government claimed it had implemented all 135 recommendations from the Pepper Inquiry, however this is far from true! For example: 

  • Fracking companies are still storing thousands of litres of toxic wastewater in open water ponds in flood prone areas, rather than in closed tanks as required by the Pepper Inquiry.
  • There is no credible plan to prevent fracking releasing a dangerous amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
  • The risks to Aboriginal people and their culture are significant and remain largely unaddressed.

Even The NT Government’s own Independent Overseer has acknowledged that the Fracking Inquiry has not been properly implemented, stating that in relation to greenhouse gas emissions “there has been no progress on the crux of this recommendation”.

He also said that the cultural risk assessment undertaken “has not mitigated, and does not purport to mitigate, risks to Aboriginal people and their culture identified by the Inquiry… these risks are substantially unaltered since the Inquiry’s Final Report and so remain at an unacceptable level.” 

Exploratory fracking already doing harm

While the fracking industry in the Northern Territory is still in the exploration stage, it is already causing harm.

In 2022, Tamboran Resources sprayed 300,000 litres of drilling wastewater around a well site. Tamboran were fined for the incident which raised concerns about potential run-off from the event into the environment and led to workers highlighting their concerns about possible health impacts.  Pastoralists have also raised allegations about wastewater being pumped onto their paddocks from a well site.

If allowed to proceed to full production, the fracking industry plans to drill thousands of wells in the Beetaloo Basin, industrialising our precious landscapes with a vast array of drill sites, intersecting roads, pipelines, compressor stations and wastewater treatment plants.

Fracked gas destined for industrial petrochemical hub in Darwin

Almost $2 billion (and possibly up to $3.5 billion) of taxpayer funds has been allocated by the Federal Government to develop a gas processing, plastics and petrochemical manufacturing hub at Middle Arm in Darwin Harbour that would pose a range of serious threats to the harbour and the health of Palmerston residents. The NT Government plans to develop these dangerous industries with fracked gas from the Beetaloo Basin.

Pipelines across the NT

The NT Government is also pushing plans to build vast pipelines so that fracked gas can be exported from Darwin to overseas, and from the Beetaloo Basin across to Queensland. Territorians have made it clear they want and need public funding for health, housing and education, and that they don’t support corporate hand-outs for fracking giants.

For more information about fracking, please see here.

To get involved with the campaign, head over here.

To get in touch with the Frack Free NT team, use this form.