Mar 20, 2014

Santos’ open flame: can it snuff out the protests on coal seam gas?

At first glance Prime Minister Tony Abbott's deregulation agenda would appear to play into the hands of companies struggling to gain development approval.

Paddy Manning

Crikey business editor

At first glance Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s deregulation agenda would appear to play into the hands of companies like Santos, which is battling to win approval for its contentious coal seam gas project at Narrabri. But it might be a case of careful what you wish for, if Santos’ path to approval at Narrabri is secured by restricting shareholder activism or nobbling the regulatory regime put in place to protect precious groundwater resources like the Great Artesian Basin against coal seam gas development.

Santos is reeling from reports in The Sydney Morning Herald earlier this month confirming that high levels of uranium and other contaminants were found in groundwater under its CSG operations in the Pilliga state forest — billed as the first confirmed instance of aquifer contamination by the coal seam gas industry in this country.

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8 thoughts on “Santos’ open flame: can it snuff out the protests on coal seam gas?

  1. Mark Duffett

    We often hear loose claims from pro-gas lobbyists about how there is no confirmed instance of aquifer contamination by fracking anywhere in the world. They can’t say that anymore.

    This is itself a loose claim. According to the SMH report, the contamination source was a holding pond at the surface, so nothing to do with the actual process of fracking per se. Such holding ponds are associated with a range of drilling techniques, including those used in creating water bores for human and stock use. It would be interesting to see how many farm dams have caused aquifer contamination by the same mechanism as has apparently occurred here.

  2. AR

    I thought Duffer was just hot for nukes but he’s into all sort of dirty stuff, clearly..or murkily.

  3. fractious

    Tony Windsor is wrong. Santos knows very well what the “connectivity issues” are – that’s what they pay consultants for. The problem isn’t ignorance, it’s the pi$$-weak state planning and environment legislation (getting weaker by the week), the almost complete absence of fecks given by the state planning authority, the apathy in regulatory authorities such as OEH and the size and clout of NSW DPI. Weakening the already dilatory performance of the Cth. in prosecuting the oversight mechanisms of the EPBC Act will make it all much easier for the likes of Santos, but that’s what the majority of punters apparently want.

    “There’s Nothing Like Australia” goes the tourism ad – in the fine print it should say “but hurry up cos it’s going fast”.

  4. Ian

    Paddy you say: “Mistaking genuine, broad community opposition for fringe extremism is exactly the wrong path to go down.”

    You imply by this statement that those grass roots activists that fight tooth and nail to protect this country, planet or what have you are the extremists. That’s an unfortunate implication which I hope was not meant as such since the real extremists are the Santos’s and the governments that allow them to go about their dirty business and destroy our habitat.

  5. Tyger Tyger

    Yes, Mark Duffett @1. Drilling down 2-3,000 metres then pumping at high pressure up to 25 megalitres of water mixed with another 125,000 litres of some 600-odd chemicals including many known toxins and carcinogens is just another “drilling technique”, such as one might use to drill typically from 5 to 20 metres, and at most several hundred metres to create “water bores for human and stock use”. You have zero credibility.

  6. Mark Duffett

    TT, I thought my point was clear – the issue is with the holding pond, and the drilling technique is incidental to that. Apart from casual libel, what’s yours?

  7. fractious

    Duffett – “the issue is with the holding pond and the drilling technique is incidental”. Wrong. Your amateurish, transparent attempt at misdirection reveals your true purpose.

  8. pat Schultz

    In the Narrabri / Pilliga gas fields the problem is not fracking. The problem is bringing heavily contaminated ‘produced water’ from 1 km underground to the surface. This water must be brought to the surface to release the gas. There have been 16 serious spills of produced water in the Pilliga under the exploratory license, only two were reported. The produced water has killed everything in it’s path, a typical spill is about 500mt by 200mt. Only spills larger than this were reported by Eastern Star Gas / Santos. These spills risk contaminating the Great Artesian Basin and the Murray Darling river systems. Santos are still working under an exploratory license. They do not have a production license. As mentioned previously connectivity between the deep coal seam gas wells and the fresh water aquifers above them can only be a looming disaster for a community dependent on the aquifers for water for households, cattle and irrigation of crops.

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