Lockyer backs CSG in Queensland
League legend Darren Lockyer films a series of promotional videos spruiking the benefits of Coal Seam Gas. Video: Origin EnergyPT0M0S 620 349
An unlikely spruiker, the gravel-voiced Rugby League legend Darren Lockyer admits he had a negative opinion about coal seam gas until he signed a three-year contract with Origin Energy's Australia Pacific LNG project.
The former Brisbane, Queensland and Australian captain, who grew up in Roma - birthplace of the state's oil and gas industry - has gone back to his home town to shoot a series of pro-CSG videos for Origin.
In the first video Mr Lockyer says from his football experience he knew that "the media can often just focus on the negatives and not look at the positives".
Mr Lockyer told Fairfax Media on Tuesday that to start with, his opinion on CSG "was more on the negative side, because I guess once you're reading something constantly you start to form an opinion.
"But now that I've gone on this journey and spoken to a lot of the experts and landowners, I'm a lot more positive about it."
Mr Lockyer said the CSG industry brought significant opportunities to Queensland including investment in infrastructure such as Roma's new airport.
Last year Mr Lockyer signed a three-year contract, worth an undisclosed amount, to be safety ambassador for the $23 billion APLNG project under construction at Gladstone.
Then came the idea of doing the videos of Mr Lockyer's journey to understand the CSG issue. Australia Pacific LNG communications manager Christopher Zipf said the company "opened the door" to Mr Lockyer as someone objective who would be given access to its experts and would form his own views on the industry.
Mr Lockyer said on Tuesday after talking to Origin's experts about the hydraulic fracture stimulation technology used to extract coal seam gas, "I've come away feeling very comfortable with it".
Mr Lockyer said he still had a lot to learn about CSG including questions about fracking and about the impact of CSG on the rising cost of gas as the new LNG plants expose the east coast gas market to international pricing.
"As we roll out these videos, there's still questions I have to ask, that potentially could be one of them," said Mr Lockyer, who is an Origin energy customer but said "to be honest I haven't noticed the gas bill at this point in time".
Mr Lockyer said he had not seen for himself the bubbling along the Condamine River near Chinchilla, the cause of which is still being investigated by both Origin and the State Government.
"The government has released findings to say there are no health or safety issues. You can see the images on the web. I haven't seen them in the flesh. One thing's for certain there is gas out that way, that's why the companies are out there," he said.
Mr Lockyer would not comment on whether he thought there were some farming areas that were inappropriate for CSG extraction and was not aware of concerns that CSG was causing health problems among the residents of the rural-residential estates at Wieambilla, near Tara, which are under investigation by the State Government.
"I think everyone's concerned about the impact it has on the environment, and the impact it has on communities," Mr Lockyer said. "That was one of my concerns when I first started this process."
Mr Lockyer said the CSG industry was "doing all it can, to be as safe as it can".
Mr Lockyer said he was prepared to cop some flack amid the heated CSG debate: "I guess when you have a public profile, if you play professional sport, there's always a section that's going to be critical ... there's nothing there for me to hide, I'm out there presenting the facts."