Bunbury Energy, previously named Unconventional Resources Pty Ltd, has been granted preferred applicant status by the government to explore for shale gas and oil in 630 sqkm of the south west.

The proposed exploration permit covers the five local government areas of Bunbury, Busselton, Capel, Dardanup and Donnybrook-Balingup and includes substantial dairy, beef and fruit growing industries.

While the company has said it doesn’t plan to frack just yet, the local community is not convinced.

In 2004 more 1.2million litres of diesel was used as fracking fluid in an unsuccessful attempt to extract gas from the Whicher Ranges, north-east of Margaret River. The exploration permit is in State Forest. More than half the diesel sent down the frack hole was not recovered and is still there. The company behind the current exploration in the area, CalEnergy is awaiting results from its recent test wells to see if the gasfield is economic. It has said it is examining ways to get tight gas out of the field without fracking. Studies have shown fracking won’t work in the gasfield.