Dr Nicki Laws from the Oakey Coal Action Alliance reported to me recently that there have been potentially thousands of coal mining and coal seam gas (CSG) test bore holes drilled across Queensland that are not required to be sealed, unlike farm water bores. This is creating real concern amongst communities, from uncontrolled leaking methane and other gases, contamination of aquifers and water wastage from the Great Artesian Basin and other aquifers, as well as fires.
For example, near the Tara / Chinchilla district, there are now underground fires burning in coal seams that can’t easily be extinguished. These have started grass fires and farmers are being told not to disturb the ground to more than 600mm of the surface, for risk of explosions. This makes it hard to farm. Furthermore, contractors are fearing working in these areas now.From a greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions perspective, uncontrolled leakage of methane from these bore holes or venting wells, where methane is deliberately released to the atmosphere and burnt, could be a serious problem. If unburnt, the methane could become a major source of greenhouse gas emissions very quickly, given rapidly expanding scale of the CSG industry, as methane has a very strong global warming factor. It is 56 times worse than CO2 over 20 years and 21 times worse over 100 years. (Source).
This means that any GHG reduction benefits of swapping coal with CSG for energy production could be outweighed by this leakage of methane gas.Studies to measure methane and other gas concentrations around coal seam gas areas have been conducted in the US and Australia (See University of Southern Cross Study). These studies show concentrations of methane to be very much higher than suggested by the coal and gas industry. The industry always tries to dismiss these studies as lacking rigor or incomplete, and they choose to use very low default values of leaking methane present in reporting to government.
Sustainable Energy Systems Consultant & Educator
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