Mar 22, 2012

Behind the Seams: going underground to examine CSG risk to aquifers

FAQ Research writer Brian Bahnisch looks at the issues thrown up in relation to underground aquifers and cola seam gas.

In CSG and the land: straight from the farmers’ mouths, I looked at some of the impacts of CSG mining on farming activities above the ground. Here, I examine the issues thrown up in relation to underground aquifers.

Professor Roger Jones in his article on risk tells us:

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7 thoughts on “Behind the Seams: going underground to examine CSG risk to aquifers

  1. Stickey

    I hear the drillers and miners in the Cooper Basin have been “fraccing” over the past 20 years. The GAD water still seems to be just as hot and potable for stock anyway.

  2. Mal White


    You make a valid point.

    The environmental implications of CSG extraction is a very complex. CSG extraction is not new to Australia so it seems obvious that a study of what has happened so far should have rated at least a mention in this article.

    All the talk on “wicked risks” seems a bit of an unnecessary and bizarre play on words.

    On one hand I respect the points made about the uncertainty of dealing with such complex and variable geology. Each CSG well is going to have its own unique set of risks. Time will tell whether the industry can be successful without major damage to the environment.

  3. Damotron

    At some point there will be a class action against the mining companies worth millions and millions of dollars. Bet the tax players end up playing the bill as the miners jump ship. In Queensland the P in LNP stands for Palmer.

  4. Brian Bahnisch

    Stickey I don’t agree with Mal White that your comment is valid. If you followed the link to the work by Mal Hellmuth you would note that the Surat Basin carries more risk than the Bowen Basin. As I recall the Cooper Basin wasn’t mentioned. The point is that you can’t extrapolate from the experience in one basin to another. Also some areas within the basin carry more risk than others.

    Also the incidence of fracking in the past is a mere fraction of what is going to happen in the future.

    Third, fracking tends to be concentrated in particular areas. The Dalby hearings of the Senate Committee were told about an area where 1700 out of 2000 wells were going to be fracked.

    We had intended to do a separate piece on fracking. because of that and space considerations I didn’t go into it in any detail.

  5. Brian Bahnisch

    Mal White, further to what I said to Stickey, the Senate Committee found that the more wells we drilled the more we would know about the geology of the areas we are drilling, and the risks entailed. But we would learn through the experience itself. But in doing so we create the risk.

    They call it a Catch 22. The Queensland government calls it adaptive management. But it’s a wicked problem in that the risks cannot be fully assessed before the holes are drilled.

    A major point of the whole piece was that no matter how much research you do you can’t eliminate the risk at the farm level, or indeed from one hole to another, or be sure that the problems won’t appear in years to come. It’s a wicked problem in the terms specified by Professor Roger Jones. The study of risk is his speciality.

    This is not a trivial play on words.

  6. Brian Bahnisch

    The comments thread at Larvatus Prodeo where this post was also published is now closed, but over there Dale Stiller posted a link to Ben Kele at CQU on the treatment of ‘associated water’, the salty water co-produced with the gas.

    They are trickling the water over natural volcano rock which removes the sodium chloride and then they add calcium and magnesium salts to promote soil health and plant health in a process that is cheaper and less energy intensive than reverse osmosis.

    That’s all fine and good, but he makes the statement that demineralised water from the reverse osmosis process is actually harmful to the soil. In fact he implies it is just as harmful as sodium chloride.

    I’d actually like to hear what a soil scientist says about this issue.

  7. Brian Bahnisch

    Further to my last comment, I’ve consulted two agricultural scientists. It seems that demineralised water is not harmful to plant life as such. Obviously it’s preferable if the water contains minerals that promote plant growth.

    The same would apply to soil.

    This is a separate issue from disposing of the cleaned-up water by releasing it into creeks and rivers. There it creates unnatural flows and the water is cleaner than the stream ecologies are used to.

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