YOUR SAY: Four Corners expose the dirty little secret on Coal Seam Gas

Posted on February 22, 2011 by


BY IAN LONGFIELD.

I’m not sure how many of you saw the Four Corners story last night (hat tip to Karen for alerting us to it), but it opens up the real story on coal seam gas and it’s cousin, shale or tight gas extraction. The damage to agricultural land as well as the poisoning of wells and the Great Artesian Basin by this process is deplorable. Unfortunately we have both state and Federal governments who are dependent on the royalties and taxes generated, so turn a blind eye or neglect the regulation of these industries to save a few bucks. A few more thoughts:

  • The fact that these tight gas wells are even being sunk is an indication that the easy gas is now gone.
  • Much of the CSG from Queensland and NSW is going to end up as LNG on a tanker to China and this will expose Australian domestic customers to world parity pricing. (Prices will go up which is both good and bad)
  • Gas is being promoted as a “green” fuel which has less CO2 /joule than other fossil fuels. If the cost of less CO2 is poisoned water then it’s far from green.
  • The Replace Hazelwood campaign proposes to replace the bulk of Hazelwoods power output with gas-turbines. The fuel for this generator would be CSG from Queensland. This would be more expensive than brown coal and more expensive again when competing with LNG customers. The potential pollution issues in the gas fields may outweigh the savings to be had from shutting down Hazelwood, but would entrench another dirty technology for at least 30-40 years.
  • As the effects of peak oil start to bight, (and who knows what could happen this afternoon in Libya, Bahrain, etc), there will be more pressure to convert CSG to synthetic liquid fuel which will release just as much, if not more CO2, than burning the equivalent amount of oil for the same amount of work.
  • The unburnt methane leaks from CSG wells are contributing to global warming and have a much higher radiative forcing factor than CO2, though shorter lived in the atmosphere.
  • Hydro-fracturing geothermal energy uses similar techniques to the CSG industry and much of the same equipment and chemicals are used. It also has some similar potential artesian water contamination issues with the lovely addition of radioactive Radon gas escaping from granite fractures.

Having said all that, I’m actually a fan of gas (methane) and think that it could be a sustainable fuel if we can learn to produce it at scale from bio-chemical processes. I’ll leave that particular subject for another day. (incidentally, the Victorian flood waters would be inducing massive production of methane and other nasty stuff from rotting vegetation in an anaerobic environment. Another climate change positive feedback loop?). Cheers – Ian

The original publication of this article can be found here at Ian’s blog Transition Towns Albury Wodonga.

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Ian Longfield has campaigned on peak oil issues since 2007 after becoming aware of the problems in 2005 at a land planning seminar. It was through his professional involvement in property development and agency that he became increasingly concerned at the pattern of urban development taking place which would leave a legacy of stranded and useless infrastructure for future generations that would have less oil than we do today.   Ian’s electrical and engineering background helped him on a search through the possible alternatives, the links between oil and climate change and the geo-political significance of oil in world affairs, culminating in the conclusion that oil depletion will affect just about every aspect of life as we know it.  In late 2009 Ian was a founding member of Transition Towns Albury-Wodonga and also commenced a degree course in Sustainable Energy Management with Murdoch University.  Ian and his wife have lived in Albury for 15 years and have three children.

The views in this story are those of the author and not necessarily those of Our Voice: Politics Albury-Wodonga.

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