Large Natural Gas Field Found in Austria

Around 22 billion cubic meters of natural gas are suspected to exist at a depth of about 2,000 meters near the Upper Austrian market town of Molln. Allegedly, the gas deposit is so large that it could supply all of Austria with gas for three years.

This is suggested by seismological data. The company ADX Energy now wants to find out whether there is so much gas thereby drilling a test well. Even though earlier reports said that natural gas had already been found, “It’s not resolved yet,” said Reinhard Sachsenhofer, professor of petroleum geology at Montanuni Leoben, as ORF reported. “Now the mining authority must approve this drilling project once, then there is a prospecting well. Then we will know whether gas is actually there. With a second or third well, it will then be possible to estimate with a relatively high degree of certainty how large the deposit is,” says Sachsenhofer.

Political dilemma over gas reserves

The gas discovery comes at a time when replacements for pipeline gas from Russia are urgently sought. Austria’s gas consumption has recently remained relatively stable at between eight and nine billion cubic meters per year. At the beginning of 2022, around 80 percent of the gas required still came from Russia, but this share has now fallen to just over 20 percent. More gas from Norway and, above all, significantly more expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG) have taken the place of Russian pipeline gas.

The big problem is that this new natural gas deposit is located near a nature reserve. Austrian politicians are showing mixed feelings and in some cases are taking a stand, ORF reports. For Upper Austria’s environmental councilor Stefan Kaineder (Greens), a realization of the project would lead to the “bizarre situation” that in the “natural pearl of Upper Austria, of all places, gas is being drilled for, which is ruining the climate.” SPÖ regional party leader Michael Lindner also warns that an Australian company could profitably sell Austrian gas abroad.

But resistance is nevertheless forming. Many citizens feel poorly informed or not informed at all. About 100 people came to a meeting to which mayor Andreas Russmann (SPÖ) had invited. The information gain had been small, ADX had owed details so far, it was said, as DerStandard reports.

Franz Maier, president of the environmental umbrella organization, is also skeptical about the project. As DerStandrad reports, he also attended the citizens’ meeting. His main concern: “That this is a fossil energy source and developing the deposits would counteract Austria’s climate and energy goals.” In addition, there is the location on the edge of the Kalkalpen National Park, only a little more than two kilometers away from it as the crow flies and directly adjacent to the very high-quality Jaidhaus nature reserve.

ADX Energy is going to drill

There are no plans to drill in a nature reserve, the company ADX Energy stressed, as reported by ORF. The planned drilling site is exactly 2,250 meters from the national park boundary and only about 20 meters from the Jaidhaustal nature reserve, Kalkalpen National Park said.

Contrary to various rumors, ADX VIE GmbH does not yet have a drilling or production license for Molln. The company has had the exploration license required for the exploration project since April 2022. The license was issued by the mining authority responsible for the project, which used to be part of the Ministry of Infrastructure and is now part of the Ministry of Finance.

According to ADX, contracts have already been signed with the owner of the land, the Austrian Federal Forests. A test well is being planned and is to be drilled this year, and a suitable drilling site has already been found outside the nature reserve. Experience shows that it takes about three years after a successful test drilling before the first gas can be produced.

The parent company ADX Energy Ltd. is headquartered in Perth, is listed on stock exchanges in Australia and Germany and specializes in the exploration and production of oil and gas deposits. In addition to Austria, where its wholly owned subsidiary ADX VIE GmbH acquired assets from RAG (Renewables and Gas, formerly Crude Oil Exploration Company) in 2019, ADX also has operations in Italy and Romania.

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