Fracking company shares plummet as Australia tightens regulations on shale gas

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  By Lynda Williamson

The on-going saga of Australian unconventional gas company Dart Energy has taken a dramatic turn as it was revealed that shares in the company have tumbled to a record low.

The value of the company’s shares has dropped by a third in the last six months and the company has not posted a profit for over two years.

  By Lynda Williamson

The on-going saga of Australian unconventional gas company Dart Energy has taken a dramatic turn as it was revealed that shares in the company have tumbled to a record low.

The value of the company’s shares has dropped by a third in the last six months and the company has not posted a profit for over two years.

On Tuesday shares in Dart Energy were trading at just six cents on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Dart Energy is taking the lead in developing unconventional gas deposits at Letham Moss near Airth, close to the Firth of Forth in Stirlingshire.  The project has met with considerable opposition from local residents and environmental groups.

As well as its interests in the UK, Dart Energy has considerable investment in the Fullerton Cove prospect in New South Wales, Australia. The government of New South Wales has recently tightened regulation and has introduced a ban on all unconventional gas activity within 2 km of residential areas.

In response Dart Energy has announced that it is cutting its global workforce by 70% and consolidating the company structure. One chief executive will now head the entire company instead of having separate heads for the Australian and International arms. The UK based former head of International Operations, John McGoldrick will become the new chief executive.

Controversially the company has also announced that it is suspending its operations at Fullerton Cove and will now concentrate on its projects in the UK and China. Unconventional gas extraction faced fierce opposition in New South Wales and was recently the subject of a legal battle. A court injunction against the company has only recently been lifted. A spokesman for the Fullerton Cove community, Steve Phillips, welcomed the decision saying:

“The people of Fullerton Cove have fought bravely to defend their community from a global gas company, and for now at least, they have won.”

Dart’s chief commercial officer, Eytan Uliel, is on record praising the UK government’s approach to conventional gas exploration saying: “… the UK government are incredibly supportive, actively promoting shale gas activity.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland Campaigns Co-ordinator, Mary Church said:

“Dart Energy have been in rough waters for some time and this looks like the last desperate moves of a company that is about to go under.

“It is ironic that the company are telling Australian shareholders that their fracking and coalbed methane plans in the UK will save them, given that their proposals at Airth are deeply controversial and the planning decision has already been delayed twice.

“Communities living near Dart’s development at Airth will wonder whether this company is really up to the job of delivering the controversial coalbed methane project, and particularly whether they will be around in the coming years to deal with the clean up if anything goes wrong.”

A decision on Dart Energy’s planning application for Letham Moss near Airth is expected in May. A common precondition of planning consent in such cases is the lodging of a bond of up to £1,000,000 in case of accidents or pollution.