By Toby Walker
An exploration team will begin a search for untold riches beneath the surface of the Clarence Valley later this year.
But romantic notions of untapped gold reserves or lost civilisations should be cast aside because a team from Sydney-based Eastern Star Gas will travel to Grafton to search for natural gas and petroleum deposits.
China's continuing demand for Australian resources and the Carr Government's desire to move away from coal-generated electricity to cleaner power generated from natural gas has prompted the investigation, according to Eastern Star Gas managing director Dennis Morton.
Mr Morton said the company would begin testing a 100km line area on private and publicly-owned roads and tracks between Grafton and Casino in July.
He said the testing would involve sending vibrations through the ground via a large plate secured on the back of a truck.
Similar to an ultrasound performed on a pregnant woman, the data gained from the vibration readings would hopefully indicate any pockets of trapped gas or oil reserves beneath the surface.
Mr Morton said the company would return to the area early next year for further testing if the results from the July exploration mission were encouraging.
Eastern Star Gas' decision to investigate the Grafton area is not based on previous finds or new information but owes itself more to the naturally occurring underground environment in the Clarence Valley.
Mr Morton said the sedimentary basin, known as the Clarence-Moreton basin, had yielded modest amounts of oil and gas in the 1960s and 1970s.
He said any discovery of gas or oil would most likely lead the company to construct a gas-fired power plant capable of generating electricity that would be sold to the power grid via a provider like Country Energy.
The company has already undertaken a similar project near Narrabri after it discovered a small gas re- serve there in 2001.