Gas industry rattled by findings of triple normal levels of methane emissions  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

ReNew Economy has a report on research that may result in a massive tax bill for the coal seam gas industry - Gas industry rattled by findings of triple normal levels of methane.

LEVELS of the potent greenhouse gas methane have been recorded at more than three times their normal background levels at coal seam gas fields in Australia, raising questions about the true climate change impact of the booming industry.

The findings, which have been submitted both for peer review and to the Federal Department of Climate Change, also raise doubts about how much the export-driven coal seam gas (CSG) industry should pay under the country’s carbon price laws.

Southern Cross University (SCU) researchers Dr Isaac Santos and Dr Damien Maher used a hi-tech measuring device attached to a vehicle to compare levels of methane in the air at different locations in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. The gas industry was quick to attack their findings and the scientists themselves.

The Queensland government has already approved several major multi-billion dollar CSG projects worth more than $60 billion, all of which are focussed on converting the gas to export-friendly liquefied natural gas (LNG).

More than 30,000 gas wells will be drilled in the state in the coming decades and the industry has estimated between 10 per cent and 40 per cent of the wells will undergo hydraulic fracturing.

The industry and state and federal ministers have claimed that electricity derived from coal seam gas will help slow growth in carbon emissions but, so far, no comprehensive independent lifecycle assessment of emissions has been carried out.

Last August, a Right to Information request submitted by me and reported in the Brisbane Times revealed that the state’s government was prepared to rely on industry-funded research when it came to understanding the industry’s carbon footprint.

A later report from the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, which looked at emissions from CSG when burned for electricity in China, was produced by Worley Parsons, a company which had won a $580 million contract to work on a major CSG-to-LNG project in the state.

The Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson has also waved away suggestions that the government should commission its own independent research into CSG emissions, and was reported as saying such a study was “unnecessary”.

The work at Southern Cross University is arguably the first attempt to independently measure levels of methane coming from gasfield areas.

Dr Santos said in a university release: “The current discussions on CSG are often based on anecdotal evidence, old observations not designed to assess CSG or data obtained overseas. We believe universities are independent institutions that should provide hard data to inform this discussion. The lack of site-specific baseline data is staggering.”

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Dr Maher said while it was not possible yet to say “definitively” that the raised levels of methane were due to leaks from the CSG facilities, “we have multiple lines of evidence to suggest that that is what is causing it”. He said the initial findings pointed to the CSG operations as a likely source of the raised methane levels – in particular, from “fugitive emissions.

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