Coal Seam Gas, Water, the Environment and Farming

Coal Seam Gas, Water, the Environment and Farming

09 December 2010

| CategoryNews
The Queensland Conservation Council (QCC) recently released a position paper about the rapid expansion of the coal seam gas industry and its profound implications for Queensland’s water and natural environment. Here in the Scenic Rim we are experiencing the first stages of CSG exploration with Arrow Energy recently hosting a community information session at Boonah. The Boonah Organisation for a Sustainable Shire (BOSS), Boonah Chamber of Commerce, as well as regional farmers and environment groups are following the issue closely and beginning to inform and educate our communities about this important issue.

The award-winning documentary about coal seam gas “Gasland” is now available for community screenings in Queensland at no cost. If you are interested in hosting a community screening contact Tony Zrna of Palace Films, direct number: 0398161717; email  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling: An historic new ordinance bans natural gas drilling while elevating community decision making and the rights of nature over the “rights” associated with corporate personhood:

A fascinating Bioneers presentation is also available online called “Drafting Nature’s Constitution”. It explores issues including resource extraction and suggests that simply regulating pollution will never really stop it. Mari Margil of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund discusses why we need a fundamental change in the way we use law to protect nature:

The following information comes from Qld Conservation Council’s recent articles and position paper about CSG.

Coal seam gas (CSG) is essentially methane gas extracted from underground coal seams. CSG occurs naturally in coal seams, and is held under pressure within cracks and fissures by the action of water molecules. To extract the gas, a bore is sunk through to the coal seam and the gas and water released by natural pressure (or by pump) to the surface.

The gas and the water are then separated. The gas is then piped to market. The export of CSG as liquefied natural gas (LNG) involves an additional process of converting the gas to a liquid so that it can be transported by ship.

The waste or associated water is heavily saline and also contains hydrocarbons. Government regulation now requires that the water is treated, and is fit-for-purpose as a reused resource.

Major concerns about coal seam gas extraction can be divided into three parts:

Firstly they concern water. The process could mean the contamination of adjacent aquifers and the removal of too much water from underground storages.  The management and reuse of associated water must also be addressed. Current estimates suggest that 350,000 megalitres of water per year could be extracted by the industry. The use of associated water and impacts on groundwater are naturally significant concerns of landholders and environmentalists. Agriculture, grazing, rural communities and a healthy environment are dependent upon clean and sustainable underground water storages.

The second impact is upon the local environment. The industry estimates that it will drill over 40,000 CSG wells on the Darling Downs to extract gas, potentially weakening the strata rock that holds that gas in place below ground. The mass of required pipelines between wells and between the gas fields and distribution points will disturb primary production and the environment. In Gladstone, which is earmarked as the major export distribution point, up to five separate facilities may be built to export the gas. This will impact both on lands which includes turtle nesting areas and upon the harbour where dredging will disturb dugong habitats.

Extraction close to nearby communities, pipeline infrastructure and heavy industry development impacts upon local communities, where health, cost of living, and current and future amenity need urgent investigation.  This is as much a community development and health issue as an environmental one.

Thirdly, it has an impact upon greenhouse gas emissions. The use of gas is often touted as a less emission-intense alternative to coal. However, given the extraction methods, the transportation required and the liquefaction process of the gas (generally regarded as adding about 20% to emissions) many doubt whether CSG exported gas actually represents a lower emission profile. As a transitionary export fuel it also fails the test as increased amounts of coal are also being exported, so gas is not ‘replacing’ coal as an alternative.

QCC's CSG position paper has a focus upon the groundwater and associated water issues form coal seam gas extraction. Read it here CSG Position Paper (160.51 KB)

Sustainable Scenic Rim

Sustainable Scenic Rim

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