PM rejects anti-fracking 'nonsense'

Last updated 05:00 22/03/2013

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Prime Minister John Key has waded into the fracking debate, accusing its opponents of talking nonsense.

At a Taranaki energy site, he said he had had enough of the scaremongering over the practice, particularly from the Green Party.

"From what they're saying, you'd think that because of fracking we'll all go to hell in a handbasket," he said.

"But the truth of the matter is that the practice has been going safely on in Taranaki for the past 30 years without any issues. And last year the parliamentary commissioner for the environment gave it a tick of approval in a preliminary report on fracking, and I expect that nothing will change in her final report when it is issued later this year."

Key was at the official opening of a new $100 million McKee power station in Taranaki. The plant runs on gas from wells that are producing directly as a result of hydraulic fracturing.

The 100-megawatt station sits above Todd Energy's Mangahewa gasfield, which has five producing wells, with a further four to be drilled this year and more next year.

Todd Corporation deputy chairman Malcolm Whyte said the decision to construct the power station - and another is planned - flowed from confidence in the gas reserves at Mangahewa and the ability to access that gas.

"But it must be noted that without hydraulic fracture stimulation, the Mangahewa field might not have been developed and the current expansion project certainly wouldn't have happened," he said.

The new McKee station is a "peaker" plant that can fire up in 15 minutes at times of peak power demand.

But it has been operating non-stop as a base-load station for the past six weeks because drought conditions in the South Island have severely reduced generating capability at the hydro power stations.

When the station is not operating, the gas is piped to the main North Island gas pipeline. When it is generating power, the new station consumes up to 24 terajoules of gas a day, roughly half the field's total gas output.

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