Former coal-seam gas mechanical technician Roy Michie, who spent eight years working fracking wells across Australia, claims the industry is dominated by “cowboys” who are subject to substandard regulation.
Mr Michie, who worked for US energy giant Halliburton’s CSG operations, said he had spent an earlier decade working for traditional mining companies and the cultures between the two activities were worlds apart.
“From a WA underground mining perspective you knew what the rules were and weren’t, and what was supposed to happen,” Mr Michie said.
“Oil and gas just doesn’t seem to have any rules, it just depends on who is running the show on the day as to what you will do and how you will do it.”
Those claims are vigorously contested by the CSG industry which says it abides by rigorous protocols, with extraction approvals regularly containing hundreds of conditions and requirements to protect the environment and worker safety.
Mr Michie’s comments come as a Senate committee last week called for a moratorium for all future CSG projects until further research was carried out into issues such as the disposal of salt by-product.
Mr Michie, who worked for the fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, arm of Halliburton in the Cooper Basin in South Australia and the Surat Basin in Queensland, said he quit working in the sector earlier this year over concerns about poor leadership and controls.
He said while working on CSG wells for Halliburton, which contracts to major CSG extractors, he had been unable to obtain basic information such as how close to a well head a naked flame was permitted.
Halliburton spokeswoman Zelma Branch denied the company had weak controls or practices. “Halliburton is committed to protecting public health and the environment in all of its business activities,” Ms Branch said.
Mr Michie said suggestions by the industry that the chemicals used in fracking were harmless were not true. “Some chemicals we use, like castor oil, are harmless but there are also some very nasty chemicals as well.”