Risk Management: Coal Seam Gas  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The ABC has a look at the coal seam gas industry in Queensland - Risk Management.

RAY BROWN, WESTERN DOWNS REGIONAL COUNCIL MAYOR: We had this huge youth drift from our region ten years ago. We were losing our young people everywhere. Average age of a farmer was 58. Now we've got this massive pull back that people can't wait to get out of university, get out there because there's dollars out there.

PIP COURTNEY: The gas is good for Queensland too. Nearly $1 billion in royalties will go to the cash strapped State Government every year for the next 40 years.

ANNA BLIGH, QLD PREMIER: The size of this resource so that Queenslanders understand what's under their ground rivals what is in the North West shelf in Western Australia. That is the sort of resource and prosperity that is involved here.

PIP COURTNEY: It's hard to imagine now but ten years ago there was no coal seam gas industry. Incredibly, this gas, once regarded as a nuisance to coal miners, now supplies 30% of Queensland's electricity and 70% of its gas needs. Origin Energy's new $780 million Darling Downs power station near Dalby is the State's newest gas fired power station. It will supply electricity to 400,000 homes when it hits full capacity midyear.

PAUL ZEALAND, ORIGIN ENERGY: It will be the biggest most efficient combined cycle power station on the electricity grid.

PIP COURTNEY: Further west near miles is QGC's new 140 megawatt power station. It will reach full capacity later this year. The next ten years will see 17,000 wells drilled, hundreds of kilometres of pipelines and roads laid and the construction of more compression units and power stations.

PAUL ZEALAND: Staggering amounts of figures and the Government's well aware of it. They've identified this as a major energy province not only in Queensland and Australia but also the world. ...

PIP COURTNEY: Farmers see the coal seam gas industry as one of the Queensland Government's most pressing environmental challenges.

DREW WAGNER, AGFORCE, QLD: This is impacting on productive agricultural land, it's impacting on a food resource that has been generated in perpetuity and can continue to do so. Some of these gas wells have a very, very short life span. We don't know what is going to be left after they've actually been removed from the environment because you may not be able to put it back to what it once was.

PIP COURTNEY: The big unknown here is water. The gas company's problem is what to do with the 286,000 mega litres of salty water 20,000 wells will produce annually. Farmers fear their land could be ruined by the millions of tonnes of salt that's to be brought to the surface.

UNKNOWN VOICE: The philosophy of both the Government and the resource companies seems to be oh well, we'll get on and exploit the resource and we'll worry about the salt later.

PAUL ZEALAND: I think the way we can reassure farmers is the salt is very contained within brine ponds and so we know exactly where it is, so it's not going to be spread all over the land, it can be contained in ponds. And ultimately as the project progresses years down the road, we will find some other disposal options for that salt. It may be recovered and it might be used as a commercial product itself as salt, or we may reinject it.

PIP COURTNEY: Neither ponds or reinjection are practical disposal options, though. Evaporation dams are being phased out due to leakage concerns and reinjection is untried.

DREW WAGNER: If you're concentrating this water and reinjecting it back into an aquifer that it may or may not have originally come out of depending on what this aquifer interaction is, how can you guarantee there's some impact either directly below you or some kilometre downstream either.

MAL HELLMUTH, QLD GOVERNMENT: This is not proven and neither government nor industry have an absolute position.

PIP COURTNEY: Even government experts admit they don't know how reinjection will affect the aquifers that feed the 1,500 bores in the Great Artesian Basin.


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