17 May, 2011

Some notes on Coal Seam Gas Development

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

Coal Seam Gas Development Q&A

Wednesday 29th September, 5:30pm-8:00pm at the Brisbane City Council

• 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 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

- 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
- 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
- Queensland will be trapped into a carbon-based economy

- 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

- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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

- 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

- Critical sustainability question: what is left at the end?

- 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

- 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

- Thats the area where there is a clear eco dividend

- Is there going to be a push from Queensland government for transport
to use more gas?

- Limit to size of vehicle
- Great for long distance haulage

- Petrols and fuels are a national thing, not state government

- Makes sense but not what they have planned

- Uncertainty for farmers not knowing what is going to happen is
- 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

- Misunderstood me

Lady 1
- Increased infrastructure costs use will fall on communities, who
don't want CSG industry

- Need to get companies to cover those cost

- Will be incorporated into future plans

- 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

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?

- 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

- 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?

- Could be the way you say, if it is managed well

- 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
- Have legislated no more evaporative ponds and have to upgrade old
ones - world class legislation

- Do need strategic study

- Agree with local fuel use
- Set up local gas power stations with residual gas supply to supply
for period of time

- Queensland has some options in this space
- Fast moving space

- 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

- Skills shortage in this area eg hydrologist

Guy 1
- Long term data

- 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

- Research into this area funded by gov't or industry

- Communities not set up to leverage opportunities, deal with these
- Council workers living in outlying towns due to high price of
- Royalties for regions

- Where does the panel believe that opportunities exist?
- Reforestation - use water to irrigate

- Will that work? Will the trees always need irrigation.

- No sign of producers collaborating on any research, not in a
position to

- Drew, what is the alternative? Delay the projects? Is there a
replacement for lost revenue?

- 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

- Environmental impact assessment includes health and social impacts

Panelist wrap-up

- Nothing further to add.

- CSG will result in 10,000 wells, a huge social impact and reduced
quality of life

- CSG can be good for Queensland and Australia
- Have to think about the whole system

- 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

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