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Coal Seam Gas Extraction Environmental Sciences Essay

Santos was an acronym for South Australia Northern Territory Oil Search. It was founded in 1954 and has been active in the energy business for more than 50 years. Nowadays, Santos is one of the largest producers of natural gas for the Australian domestic market. Santos is a listed company and it has about 2800 employees working across its operations in Australia and Asia. Moreover, Santos had achieves one of Australia’s Top 30 companies in March 2011 because it had made a total market capitalization of approximately $13 billion. Also, Santos is more focus the oil and liquids businesses in all mainland Australian states and the Northern Territory. Besides that, Santos is pursuing a transformational liquefied natural gas (LNG) strategy.

Coal Seam Gas Extraction

This submission addresses the concerns of is it the process of Coal Seam Gas (CSG) extraction is dangerous to health, land and community and accuse government of placing the interest of mining companies above those of citizens. In fact, they is large amounts of water are used in the process of the CSG extraction and it contains a large amounts of salt in the waste water and solid waste from the process. Besides that, the chemicals used in the fracking process to extract the CSG can cause soil contamination if the CSG well are broke and it may increase carbon pollution which may impact our healthy. Further, the mining company doesn’t have the legal access to private property and drilling on that property even though government provides permits to them, it still need to follow the regulation under the Petroleum (Onshore) Act with the landholders.

Key Development

National Water Commission (NWC) (NWC, 2010) was identified five areas of potential risk to sustainable water management for the impact of CSG developments:

There had an impact on connected surface and groundwater systems when extracting large volumes of low-quality water.

By having changes in pressures of adjacent aquifers with consequential changes in water availability, reductions in surface water flows in connected systems, land subsidence over large areas, ecosystems, etc, the impacts on other water users and the environment may occur.

It has the potential to change the beneficial use characteristics of those aquifers if the reinjection of treated waste water into other aquifers.

It has a impacts on groundwater quality and the potential to induce connection and cross-contamination between aquifers if try to increase gas output by practice of hydraulic fracturing.

It will affect the natural flow patterns and have significant impacts on water quality if the production of large volumes of treated waste water released to surface water systems. The ‘clean water’ pollution of naturally turbid systems also may occur if the water is overly treated.

Finally, the Australian Government was administers two pieces of legislation relevant to the CSG industry which are the Environment protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC ACT) and Water Act 2007. (Australian Government Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities: Coal seam gas approvals – Frequently asked questions n.d.) to try to avoid those potential risk.

Water extraction and depletion of water resources

Based on the NWC estimated, Australia CSG could extract about 300 gigalitres per year. In contrast, the current total extraction from the Great Artesian Basin is approximately 540 GL per year. (National Water Commission, 2011) Therefore, CSG industries are reducing the water resources and it may had an impact on connected surface and groundwater systems.

However, CSG companies argued that rather than depleting the amount of available water, the CSG industry could increase the water available for all users. For example, Santos (2011, pp. 6) argued that the extracted coal seam gas water will be treated in reverse osmosis plants that will produce water that can be utilized for irrigation, town water and other uses in the area. In other words, Santos will produce water available for agriculture in the areas in which we operate. Besides that, Santos was found out the treatment of CSG water could result in 5GL per year, which increase the water available in northwestern New South Wales, and has potential to increase agricultural production in the area by 1%.

Disposal of produce water and solid waste

For disposal of produce water, CSG water normally will treating it to a high standard to allow using for re-injecting treated water into aquifers, top-up local water supplies, agriculture, irrigation for farming land or allow to flow into natural drainage. For examples, Mr. Baulderstone, Santos’ Vice President for Eastern Australia state that ‘I think one of the very strong advantages that Santos has is that we have been doing this for 15 years. I can take you to our areas in Queensland, where right now we are running those reverse osmosis plants, where right now we are injecting water into town aquifers, and where right now we are providing produced water to farmers to irrigate crops and some thousand head of cattle are feeding off those crops right now. So the reason we are so confident about these processes is that we actually do it now’. (Mr. Baulderstone, evidence, p6). This show that the CSG water still can be reuse after treated.

Moreover, solid waste is the waste that removes from the CSG water after the process of reverse osmosis. Normally, the CSG Company will use the landfill method to dispose the significant amounts of solid waste. However, Santos was undertaking a study of the ‘commercial and technical feasibility of brine disposal’ to refine it whether the full reinjection into a geological formation is possible or not. Furthermore, to avoid the CSG Company simply deal with the solid waste, the Government should not approve any CSG activity without a solid waste management plan included in the relevant approval.

The Cleaner Energy and the Process of Coal Seam Gas Extraction

CSG is one of the cleanest of fossil fuels. It can help to reduce the greenhouse emission in Australia. Besides that, it is up to 70% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than other existing coal generation technology when using to generated electricity. According to APPEA website, up to 4.3 tonnes of emission are avoided in the CSG-LNG production process for every tonnes of CO2 emission when gas is used instead of coal for power generation. For example, it can avoid more than 32 million tonnes of global CO2 emissions each year if the CSG-LNG project exports at least 10 million tonnes of LNG to China per annum. These mean that CSG has a significant role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

For the process of the CSG extraction, the industry state that hydraulic fracturing is well established, tightly regulated and has been used internationally for more than 60 years and for 15 years in Australia. Moreover, to counter claim that fluid is a dangerous cocktail of volatile organic including benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene and xylene, known as BTEX, CSG producers claims that the Queensland and NSW have already banned the use of BTEX and the chemicals in use are common in Australia which also have released a list of the compound used in Australia.

In addition, the CSG industry also state that the CSG wells are cased with cement and steel to prevent gas or other substances leaking into water aquifers. By investigations in the UK and US, this process show to be safe. Therefore, the process of CSG extraction of the chemicals used and will cause soil contamination simply aren’t true, as this research shows.

Legal rights of landholders

The mining company doesn’t have legal access to private property and drilling on that property even though the government provides license. This is because under the Petroleum (Onsbore) Act 1991, it contains the provisions to protect landholder right during the exploration and production stages. For example, it must serve with a written notice detailing the license holder’s intention to obtain an access agreement if a license holder seeks to enter a property.

Besides that, most of the CSG companies are not enforcing their access rights, thus negating the need for landholders to have an absolute right to veto. One of the example is Mr. Kelemen (2008) said that “From our many years of operating in Queensland, Santos is respectful of landholders and their needs and we seek to minimise any disruption or inconvenience associated with exploration,”. Furthermore, Mr. Richard Shields, External Relations Manager of Metgasco (2011, p39) also state that ‘history to date is that if a farmer did not wish to proceed then we have respected those views and we have looked for other landholders to participate in the industry’.

This is because it is a benefit to have strong relationships with landholders to gain reputation where we are seen as very much working together with the landholders. (Mr. de Weijer, 2011:p67)

Conclusion

This submission has presented research and evidence that supports the process of coal seam gas extraction to continue. The notion of conducting a review of the law related to the CSG was not inadequate. The recommendation is to introduce the solution of the problem in the process of CSG extraction to the public for reducing argue and accuse of the process. Also, government should strictly for the approval of CSG extraction to all CSG companies to prevent the problem occurs. It should include all the solution of the problem will face in CSG activity in the relevant approval for getting the government approval.

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