Thursday, 15 November 2012 09:03
A new study into methane levels around coal seam gas mining in Queensland shows the industry in a "whole new light", suggesting it's not as clean as it claims, environmental campaigners say.
In an attempt to measure the effects of CSG mining on air and water, Dr Isaac Santos and Dr Damien Maher from the Southern Cross University travelled to Tara in southern Queensland and the Richmond River catchment in Northern NSW.
While there they took snapshots of the level of methane in the atmosphere and creeks in order to determine the amount of emissions.
Lock the Gate Alliance president Drew Hutton said the findings - presented at a lecture in Lismore on Wednesday night - recorded methane levels in CSG areas as high as 6.89 parts per million.
This, he said, compared to other non-CSG areas that recorded levels around two parts per million.
"This throws the industry into a whole new light," Mr Hutton told reporters.
Mr Hutton said the fugitive methane emissions escaped through cracks in the soil, pipelines or wellheads after an aquifer was depressurised to release gas in the coal seam.
"The federal government currently works on the assumption that fugitive methane emissions from coal seam gas are 0.12 per cent of all gas produced," he said.
However, he said, if methane levels are "many times higher" - as the study suggests - than the industry could face higher penalties under the carbon tax.
Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Pepe Clarke said the study raised questions as to whether the industry was a cleaner alternative to coal.
"If fugitive emissions of methane from CSG gas fields occur on the same scale as was detected around Tara Estate, this industry is potentially much more dangerous in terms of its contribution to climate change than traditional fossil fuels," he said.
However, Rick Wilkinson from The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) said the research was incomplete and "lacks the basics of scientific rigour".
"What is presented as research is in reality a funding submission," he said in a statement.
"The research is notable through omission rather than content and seems squarely aimed at natural gas production rather than all sources of actual and potential greenhouse gas emissions."
Mr Hutton said the study was preliminary and more were needed.
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