I compiled the following notes following the QnA session on Coal Seam Gas held by the Australian Sustainable Business Group at the Brisbane City Council Library. last September.
I gave the panelists to opportunity to review the notes and make comments or corrections.
Rowan Barber State Manager Australian Sustainable Business Group www.asbg.net.au
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Coal Seam Gas Development Q&A
Wednesday 29th September, 5:30pm-8:00pm at the Brisbane City Council Library
Moderator • Adjust Professor David Hood, Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering, QUT
Panel members • Dean Ellwood, Assistant Director-General, Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) • Drew Hutton, Spokesperson on Coal Seam Gas, Six Degrees • Dr Michael (Mike) Clarke, Consulting Engineer, METTS Pty Ltd • Professor John Cole, Director, Australian Centre for Sustainable Business and Development, USQ
David Hood - Adjunct QUT professor - Chair of Australian Green Infrastructure Council - Active in Engineers Australia - Purpose of evening: Raise awareness, hear from people who know about CSG
Dean - CSG has been used for decades in domestic supply - CSG technology on this scale is new and has brought with it opportunities and money - Diminishing supplies of cheap crude oil and a global appetite for energy are creating opportunities and the potential for huge sums of money, in the order of $120 billion - CSG is developing quickly due to technology that drops gas temperature down to a point where ships can transport it overseas - The Government has been very busy working on CSG - Technology - CSG is a natural gas, approximately 98% methane, which collects in underground coal seams by bonding to the surface of coal particles - The CSG process involves drawing water from the coal seams which releases the CSG - The water that is brought to the surface is variable in quality but generally has a high salinity
Drew - The issues are mainly social & political - Ironic that when the world is trying to reduce it's emissions that Queensland is trying to rapidly increase its emissions - Queensland is undergoing a rapid transformation - the biggest since 19th century - Queensland is the most energy and resource intensive state in Commonwealth - New and expanded coal mines will add 25% to emissions in 4-5 years (40 tonnes CO2e per year), which will make national targets very difficult - Queensland will be trapped into a carbon-based economy
Mike - Climate skeptic and proud of it - Wells have two functions - gas and water - so will need two networks to transfer, but that infrastructure won't always be needed so will have to be converted back into farming land - Water that comes out is very variable (TDS anywhere from 1000 ppm to 10000 ppm), which brings with it challenges
John - Doesn't disagree with anything he's heard so far tonight about the issues to do with CSG - All kinds of risk with CSG - known unknowns, unknown unknowns, etc - so risk management is important - Social impacts e.g. Resources sector including CSG taking every tradie it can get, potentially disrupting the learning lifecourse of an entire generation in regional centres - Towns between Toowoomba - Roma are being approached by CSGcompanies offering to assist with airport extensions to facilitate FIFO. Fly in/ Fly out is not always good for communities. - There are Multiple gas fields - all with different issues - Bowen Basin, Surat, Galilee. Issues and environments are different in Dalby, Roma, Miles etc. - Farmers are realising there are other risks besides the process issues such as access to properties eg water rights and land degradation. - Queensland appears to be rushing to meet deadlines imposed by multinationals in a dash to market Qld gas internationally. - CSG is a transition fuel and Australia could be outbid by Saudi Arabia and Russia in the future - The market is not just about China - Need to separate: - Process issues e.g. land access issues which are upsetting farmers - could be fixed - Risk and sustainability questions: Whether it should be done or not - International issue - multinationals deciding whether to do CSG here or somewhere else, and they will go somewhere else if investment opportunities are more attractive - Growing demand for gas internationally and ecojomies become more energy intensive - Some people in the basin think they can leverage off this to build communities - The Government should impose social conditions as part of the approvals; make the companies pay for the right to drill here e.g. pay for the infrastructure that will be required to support their operations such as extending regional airports, otherwise in 25-50 years when the CSG runs out all we’ll be left with is 30,000+ holes in the ground and not much to show for it - There are lots of CSG companies but not all will get involved as there is not enough room; 4 are currently involved (Origin, Santos, BG (QLD gas) & Shell (Arrow)) but it is expected 2 of them will bundle into other consortia and sell, leaving 2 major operators - Pipelines to Gladstone will be feed gas into an LNG plant for export - In the order of 20 million tonnes of LNG is expected to be produced each year over 50 years with the Government claiming potentially a private sector investment of more than $40 billion,and the creation of over 18,000 jobs
Mike - US don't want any LNG being imported because they found some in their territory that they didn't know was there - Asia may find similarly find reserves and will exploit them
John - Critical sustainability question: what is left at the end?
Drew - Agree and disagree - Important question: is this a green energy source? No. (Mike: yes it is). Over the lifecycle it's no better than coal. - Compressor stations will create noise that can be heard in a 1km radius
Mike - Company he's consulting to is interested in small generators for trucks and trains that use CSG - CSG would be better than diesel as it is less carbon intensive
John - Thats the area where there is a clear eco dividend
Michel - Is there going to be a push from Queensland government for transport to use more gas?
Dean - Limit to size of vehicle - Great for long distance haulage
John - Petrols and fuels are a national thing, not state government
Drew - Makes sense but not what they have planned
John - Uncertainty for farmers not knowing what is going to happen is problematic - Should have an Ombudsman in this space, like in energy - Mining Warden is currently in this role but doesn't want to hear those complaints - Need to show farmers they are respected and valued - Is an upside - lot of jobs - Need an independent person whose findings can be arbitrated in a court of law
Lady 1 - Notion that gas can be switched to road and rail is problematic
Mike - Misunderstood me
Lady 1 - Increased infrastructure costs use will fall on communities, who don't want CSG industry
David - Need to get companies to cover those cost
Dean - Will be incorporated into future plans
Drew - Regulation doesn't usually work when you're dealing with big industry because they are essential to the government - DERM is best regulator out there at the moment, because they're scared of the social movement - Politicians telling regulators not to make things difficult for BHP etc
Joe, EDO - Risk - extraction of groundwater - lot of uncertainty about effect on the basin - water moves slowly - effects could be delayed - How much knowledge do we have in this area?
Mike - Water is coming out of the coal, not normal aquifer water - Very difficult to re-wet coal, water unlikely to flow back in, although will in 100 years
Phillip, process engineer - Question of whether extradite water will get into aquifer and contaminate water - Depends on whether aquifers are above or below drill holes
Alison - What ranking has been done on the agricultural land that is being mined? Are we keeping the best agricultural land? - Could the farmers do this themselves and get benefit?
Mike - Could be the way you say, if it is managed well
Dean - Government just release strategic crop and land policy - Local gain: some cases where locals have used water etc beneficially - Previously used large evaporative ponds but can't right previous wrongs - Have legislated no more evaporative ponds and have to upgrade old ones - world class legislation
Drew - Do need strategic study
Mike - Agree with local fuel use - Set up local gas power stations with residual gas supply to supply for period of time
John - Queensland has some options in this space - Fast moving space
Dean - Layers of different aquifers - Coal water comes from different aquifers - Question about interconnectivity - Government introduced adaptive environmental management so you can change licenses over time as knowledge and conditions change
Guy 1 - I'm the past have found conditions... - From political and technical point of view need certainty - Is DERM going to receive the support to fix the problems that will arise?
John - Skills shortage in this area eg hydrologist
Guy 1 - Long term data
Dean - Online portal for data - ground water - Hydrogeologist are being appointed
Guy 2 - Impact of industry as a whole, cumulatively over time, hasn't been taken into account - Only looking at individual project impact - Ecological collapse due to collective impact
David - Research into this area funded by gov't or industry
John - Communities not set up to leverage opportunities, deal with these issues - Council workers living in outlying towns due to high price of accommodation - Royalties for regions
Mike - Where does the panel believe that opportunities exist? - Reforestation - use water to irrigate
Rowan - Will that work? Will the trees always need irrigation.
Phil - No sign of producers collaborating on any research, not in a position to
Michel - Drew, what is the alternative? Delay the projects? Is there a replacement for lost revenue?
Drew - Calling for moratorium - Government desperate for funds - Industry want to drive it fast - Don't know where the money is going to come from - Should be taking a cautionary approach
Guy 3 - Credit to Government, have done research - Companies will have to make good if aquifers are drained - Gov't findings aren't due until June 2012 but approvals will be granted before then - Adaptive management yes but you can't adapt to everything - Two current projects dont have a health impact statement
Dean - Environmental impact assessment includes health and social impacts
Dean - Nothing further to add.
Drew - CSG will result in 10,000 wells, a huge social impact and reduced quality of life
Mike - CSG can be good for Queensland and Australia - Have to think about the whole system
John - Realistic - Hyperbole in discussion - Voting system different out there - Not opposed to CSG - Seeing slight collaboration between companies - Good having European companies here - Will win or lose in the next 5 years - Philip has an idea to use water in biochar - Do something positive with this