Abstract

In 2012, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released the ‘Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas’ - a set of best practice guidelines for unconventional gas development designed to address key environmental and social risks and gain public acceptance of the industry. This study sought primarily to understand the extent to which the experience of developing a large-scale coal seam gas (CSG) to liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry in Queensland, Australia was seen to have aligned with the Golden Rules, and how well the Golden Rules were seen to contribute to public acceptance of the industry.

An evaluation tool was developed where the seven Golden Rules and their subclauses were adopted as criteria in a scorecard approach. We conducted interviews with 32 senior people who had been directly involved in the development of the CSG industry in Queensland, from local, state and federal governments, gas companies, host communities as well as researchers and consultant ‘experts’.

The Queensland experience of unconventional gas development rated reasonably well in relation to the Golden Rules, with scores of three or higher out of five for four of the seven rule categories. Across all the Golden Rules, industry performance scored more highly than the effectiveness of the policy/regulatory environment, highlighting the complex and sometimes conflicted roles of governments in developing a new industry. The rules addressing baseline measurement, full disclosure and engagement were seen as most important for public acceptance.

This study developed a new tool to evaluate perceived social and environmental performance of industry and effectiveness of governance in unconventional gas development applicable across different jurisdictional contexts. This application suggests that baseline measurements, open disclosure and public engagement should be the focus for building public acceptance. For new gas developments, these findings highlight the importance of having a robust regulatory environment in place that can coordinate activities and manage cumulative impacts.

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