Friday, October 24, 2014

Coal Seam Gas By The Numbers

The ABC has a look at the coal seam gas industry - Water, salt and carbon in the coal seam gas future.
An ABC investigative report into coal seam gas extraction, suggests the industry will bring about a massive redirection of the water system in Australia.

The ABC has launched Coal Seam Gas: By the Numbers, a website that maps the coal seam gas industry and explores its impact on water resources into the future.

The project calculates the amount of water which will be drawn from the ground as a result of gas extraction from the coal seam, considers waste materials collected and approaches to managing that waste.

ABC investigative reporters have used data and information from many sources, including environmental impact studies commissioned by mining companies at the request of Governments.

Investigative reporter Wendy Carlisle says "the research shows a large number of coal seam gas leases coincide with major underground water supplies used by farmers."

"What it shows is in broad terms coal seam gas will engineer a massive redirection of the water system in Australia.

"Landholders and governments dont yet know the impact this will have. It is the great coal seam gas experiment."

There will be as many as 40,000 gas wells in Australia in less than 20 years.

The article refers to this background piece -Coal Seam Gas - By The Numbers.
Coal seam gas has emerged as a major industry in Australia in little more than a decade.

The scale and speed of its growth has been nothing short of astonishing: billions of dollars have poured into regional areas; new jobs have been created; state and national coffers have swelled; export contracts have been signed and sealed; massive liquefied natural gas facilities have been approved for construction at regional ports.

Farmers fear they are losing control of their land. Miners and some politicians say coal seam gas offers a much greener energy choice. Environmentalists and other politicians have cast doubt on those claims.

The ABCs data journalism project has pulled together information from dozens of sources to provide an insight into the promise and the dangers inherent in the coal seam gas rush.

Did you know:

- it is estimated there will be at least 40,000 coal seam gas wells in Australia by 2030?
- conservative estimates suggest coal seam gas wells could draw 300 gigalitres of water from the ground each year?
- the industry could produce as much greenhouse gas as all the cars on the road in Australia?
- modelling suggests the industry could produce 31 million tonnes of waste salt over the next 30 years? ...

Over the next 20 years coal seam gas operations are expected to continue expanding.

The Queensland Government has approved up to 40,000 wells, and as more gas is discovered it is likely that number will rise. ...

How much water will the CSG industry use?

Australias Great Artesian Basin and its underground aquifers are a vital source of water; farmers and other bore users are given allocations for their use.

By 2014, the Commonwealth will have spent nearly $150 million under the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative, capping bores and fixing pipes to conserve water.

The coal seam gas industry is entitled to remove massive amounts of water from groundwater systems.

The Queensland Government says that if CSG mining causes groundwater levels to drop below specified "trigger" points then companies must "make good" to affected water users. The trigger points are:

- a five-metre drop in the level of agriculture bores; and
- a 0.2 of a metre drop in the water table surrounding naturally occurring springs, creeks and rivers.

The make-good arrangements have not yet been fully spelt out by government.

In addition to these provisions, the forthcoming Murray Basin Plan will set limits on groundwater extraction, including by the CSG industry. The states must enact these limits by 2019.

There is a fierce debate about the amount of water the coal seam gas industry will extract from underground, and what impact it may have on the sustainability of the Great Artesian Basin.

The industry suggests it will pull out somewhere between 126 gigalitres and 280 gigalitres a year, while the National Water Commission puts the figure above 300 gigalitres a year. Others, including the Water Group advising the Federal Government, suggest it is higher still.

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