Regulatory Framework

The onshore gas industry in Queensland is regulated by a range of legislation, standards, codes of practice and guidelines which are overseen by several government departments and agencies.

About the regulatory framework

The regulatory framework covers the full lifecycle of the onshore gas industry from gas exploration to development and production.

Legislation Description
Environmental Protection Act 1994

Administered by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

Environmental Authority (EA)

An EA is required to undertake any petroleum and gas operations. It regulates impacts to environmental values, e.g. rehabilitation, biodiversity offsets and emissions to air, land and water.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) Process

The Act prescribes the environmental impact statement (EIS) process, including the voluntary EIS process under Chapter 3, Part 2.

Offences

Offences include causing unauthorised environmental harm and breaching conditions of an environmental authority.

Management and Use of Coal Seam Gas (CSG) Water

The Act defines CSG water as a by-product and is therefore regulated as a waste. However, such water can be approved for beneficial use.

The Coal Seam Gas Water Management Policy 2012 promotes the use and management of CSG water, wherever possible, in a way that benefits the community and reduces impacts on the environment.

Further information can be found on the Business and Industry Portal.

Environmental Offsets Act 2014

Administered by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection. This Act creates an outcome-based framework for the establishment of environmental offsets.

Environmental Offsets are a legislative tool used to counterbalance significant residual impacts of authorised activities on a prescribed environmental matter. Environmental offsets are imposed as an 'offset condition' on an under other Acts, including an EA.

A prescribed environmental matter is any of the following matters prescribed under a regulation of this Act or another Act to be a prescribed environmental matter:

  1. a matter of national environmental significance;
  2. a matter of state environmental significance;
  3. a matter of local environmental significance.

An example of a prescribed environmental matter is a vulnerable wildlife area prescribed under the Nature Conservation Act 1992.

Forestry Act 1959

Administered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, with delegation of powers to the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

This Act is applicable where petroleum and gas infrastructure (i.e. wells, pipelines, facilities, etc.) is located within a state forest.

Further information can be found on the Business and Industry Portal.

Land Protection (Pest and Stock Route Management) Act 2002

Administered by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

The purpose of this Act is to establish pest management principles to restrict the introduction, and prevent the spread, of declared pests in Queensland. With respect to the onshore gas industry, this Act applies to the management and control of invasive weed species on areas disturbed by onshore gas development.

The Land Access Code 2016 requires petroleum operators to take all reasonable steps to ensure that, in carrying out authorised activities, they do not spread the reproductive material of a declared pest, as defined under Schedule 3 of this Act.

Nature Conservation Act 1992

Administered by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, the Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing, and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

This Act allows for the designation of protected areas to protect critical native wildlife and its habitat and requires Species Management Plans where onshore gas development activities have potential to impact on the values in these areas.

Further information about threatened species can be found on the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection website.

Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004

Administered by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines.

Once an environmental authority has been issued under the Environmental Protection Act, this Act is the primary Act governing onshore gas development.

Section 18 of the Act prescribes the different types of resource authorities that can be granted, collectively referred to as Petroleum Authorities. They are an authority to prospect; petroleum lease; survey licence; pipeline licence; data acquisition authority; petroleum facility licence; and water monitoring authority.

The Act also addresses, among other things, the following:

  • Royalties to be paid to the State
  • Underground water rights granted to petroleum tenure holders
  • Land access requirements
  • Safety requirements
  • Technical well construction requirements
  • Reporting requirements.
Regional Planning Interests Act 2014

This Act largely regulates conventional petroleum and gas projects and applies to tenures issued prior to the commencement of the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act.

Further information can be found on the Business and Industry Portal.

Regional Planning Interests Act 2014

Administered by the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning.

A regional interests development approval may be required when a petroleum and gas activity (including CSG) activity is proposed to be undertaken in one of the four areas of regional interest:

  • Priority Living Area;
  • Priority Agricultural Area;
  • Strategic Cropping Area; and
  • Strategic Environmental Area.

Petroleum and gas operations cannot be undertaken in an area of regional interest without a regional interests development approval (unless an exemption applies and the administering authority does not require an approval).

Assessing (referral) agencies for each area of regional interest are:

  • Priority Living Areas (local government)
  • Priority Agricultural Areas (Department of Agriculture and Fisheries)
  • Strategic Cropping Areas (Department of Natural Resources and Mines)
  • Strategic Environmental Areas (Department of Environment and Heritage Protection jointly with the Department of Natural Resources and Mines).

Further information can be found on the Department of Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning website.

State Development and Public Works Organisation Act 1971

Administered by the Department of State Development, particularly the Coordinator General.

Coordinated Projects

The Coordinator General can declare a petroleum or gas project as a coordinated project for which an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is required. The Coordinator General's EIS report may recommend or impose conditions for the proposed petroleum lease or licence.

Further information can be found on the Business and Industry Portal.

Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011

Administered by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

Beneficial Use of Wastes

The Act recognises that wastes, defined as left-over and unwanted by-products in the Environmental Protection Act, may have a beneficial use and prescribes a process whereby such waste can be reclassified as a resource and used under a Beneficial Use Approval (BUA).

There are two types of General beneficial use approvals issued by the department for CSG water:

For the General BUA to apply, the resource must be used in accordance with the conditions set out in the General BUA. If a specific BUA is required, an application must be submitted to the department.

Further information can be found on the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection website.

Water Act 2000

Administered by the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.

Underground Water Obligations

Under the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004, petroleum operators are provided with a statutory right to take underground water. However, this right is subject to the obligations in Chapter 3 of the Water Act 2000, which states that petroleum tenure holders must manage the impacts on underground water caused by the exercise of their rights under the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act.

Make Good Agreements

If a bore is located within an immediately affected area as identified in an underground water impact report (UWIR), the petroleum operator must undertake a bore assessment and enter into a make good agreement with the bore owner.

If the bore has, or is likely to have, an impaired capacity as a result of the petroleum operator's activities, the petroleum operator must also negotiate make good measures that, when implemented, ensure that the bore owner is not disadvantaged by the petroleum operation.

Further information on Chapter 3 can be found on the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection website.

Note: The Government intends to proceed with the reforms to the groundwater management framework contained in the Water Resources and Other Legislation Amendment Act (WROLA). The reforms will commence at a date to be agreed between the Minister for Natural Resources and Mines and the Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection.

The WROLA reforms will amend the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004 to make petroleum tenure holders subject to the water planning and allocation framework for the take of 'non-associated' water. 'Non-associated water' refers to water that is not taken incidentally in extracting the resource, but is taken to use consumptively in a process, such as hydraulic fracturing.

On commencement, petroleum tenure holders will need a licence or permit for take of 'non-associated' groundwater in those areas where groundwater is regulated. A transition period of two years would apply for petroleum tenure holders to come into compliance with the requirement for an authorisation for non-associated water under the Water Act 2000. This is extended to five years in the Surat Cumulative Management Area.

Further information on WROLA and on obtaining an authorisation can be found on the Department of Natural Resources and Mines website.

The following list of Commonwealth and state legislation also applies peripherally to the regulation of the onshore gas industry.

Federal Legislation

Queensland Legislation

* The term 'onshore gas' includes coal seam gas (CSG), but does not include underground coal gasification (UCG).