NORTH Roma grazier Peter Thompson has come to a successful accommodation with the gas industry and is widely regarded as an innovative thought leader in the field.
The Thompson family has grazed the rich country of Echo Hills, 80km north-east of Roma since it was subdivided from nearby Durham Downs at the end of World War II.
Peter inherited the property from his father John and by dint of clever management and hard work has turned it into a prosperous farm enterprise with his wife Nikki.
One of their many farm enterprises is gas with Origin APLNG having an authority to prospect on the land.
There are 19 gas wells on Echo Hills with two types of gas leases on the property.
Fourteen wells are on so-called Minimum Disturbance Leases (MDL) which have a small footprint while the remaining five are the larger Civil Construction Lease (Full Civil).
"There is a stark difference between the two types," Peter said.
Peter said the way it was always done before Origin came to his place was to always do a Full Civil with laser levelling.
"We were very unhappy about that and spoke to them when they were doing the scouting," he said.
"Look I'd dearly love flat ground to farm on but you didn't leave me that so why do you have to level the hill, couldn't you level the rig and the dongas instead?
"No, no, they replied, we don't do that."
But Peter kept asking why and initially got fobbed off with reasons such as health and safety.
"To their credit, they went away and thought about it and realised we can level the platform," he said.
The result was an MDL.
"In an MDL all they do is they fence it out, and then just slash it," Peter said.
"There's no earthworks, it might cost $500,000 maximum so they are saving $100,000 per site."
It is also better for the land, Peter said.
"Without any rehab done to it, it nearly rehabs itself, the buffel grass has taken off," he said.
The concept of MDLs is now spreading.
Next door to Echo Hills is Lighthouse, the property of the late Jim and Jill Baker and still owned by the Baker family.
Shortly before her recent death, Jill Baker went to Sydney to sign the compensation agreement with Origin CEO Grant King.
The work Peter Thompson had done played a vital role in that negotiation.
Peter said Origin have planned 35 wells on Lighthouse of which 33 will be MDLs.
"A whole lot more were originally going to be full civil - so this is far less impact on the environment," he said.
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