The Regulator's Perspective - Best Practice Activity Approval Processes for EGS Projects (Including Induced Seismicity)


Barry Goldstein, Michael Malavazos, Alexandra Long, Betina Bendall, Tony Hill, and Elinor Alexander

Key Words:

regulation, EGS, induced seismicity

Geo Location:



Stanford Geothermal Workshop







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Benign and valuable outcomes are key objectives for geothermal industry activities. Trust in the capacity of both industry and regulators to deliver outcomes that satisfy stakeholder expectations are the foundation for investment and expeditious land access and activity approvals. These principles and practices are especially important for operations perceived to be new and with uncertain risks
Imperatives to deliver benign outcomes and expeditious land access motivate the behavior of the regulator for geothermal, upstream petroleum, high pressure pipeline and gas storage operations in the State of South Australia. The legislative framework in South Australia (Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000 ) and the behavior of the regulator, Primary Industries and Resources – South Australia (PIRSA) are recognized by industry as “a relatively straightforward regulatory system, which could be considered a benchmark for other jurisdictions” (Productivity Commission, 2009).
The regulatory instruments that have delivered both trust and efficiency in South Australia are: non-prescriptive; allow for innovation while ensuring that operators demonstrate their ability to manage all possible risks to an acceptable level; and entail extensive stakeholder consultation to set standards which are aligned with community expectations.
Operations in South Australia include internationally significant Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) developments. Recognizing EGS is (at least to the public) a new technology with uncertain risks, PIRSA has taken account of international developments (Majer, Baria and Stark, 2008) and commissioned research (Hunt and Morelli, 2006 and Morelli and Malavazos, 2008) to increase certainty in relation to risk management for EGS operations.
This paper describes the objective based, one-stop-shop approach taken in South Australia to deliver expeditious land access and activity approvals, while building trust in regulation and the geothermal industry’s operations to deliver desired, benign, sustainable and successful outcomes. The basis for informed activity approvals for EGS operations is discussed in some detail.

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