Jan 15, 2018

Gas industry roll-out linked to startling rise in Darling Downs hospital admissions

A recent report published in the International Journal of Environmental Studies has found that circulatory and respiratory diseases in Darling Downs communities have skyrocketed since the arrival coal seam gas mining, and points to significant failures in regulation.

Eve Sinton

Freelance journalist

The rapid expansion of the coal seam gas industry in Queensland’s Darling Downs has been accompanied by a startling rise in hospital admissions, according to report published in International Journal of Environmental Studies, pointing to inadequate environmental monitoring and regulatory failure by Queensland government agencies.

The paper, by Dr Geralyn McCarron, found that acute hospital admissions for circulatory and respiratory diseases increased by up to 142% between 2007 and 2014. During the same period, pollutants reported by the CSG industry and known to cause cardiopulmonary illnesses rose by up to 6000%.

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32 thoughts on “Gas industry roll-out linked to startling rise in Darling Downs hospital admissions

  1. Christopher Armstrong

    Are the units for formaldehyde emissions correct? The article suggests a 10000x increase! If so, that’s an alarming number for a carcinogenic substance.

  2. Rais

    Yes but all this is as nothing compared with the terrible toll on health caused by wind turbines (?)

  3. Roger Clifton

    The article could also mention the leakage of methane, which damages the wider environment. However it would be naive to think that installing renewables would reduce the country’s demand for gas. Intermittent generators need the gas-inefficient single stage turbines for backup, so save nothing. If you really want a clean atmosphere, environment and greenhouse, we have to go nuclear.

    1. Rais

      Storage, friend. Australia won’t go nuclear unless it wants a covert way of producing fuel for nuclear weapons.

      1. Roger Clifton

        Australia must go nuclear if it wants to avoid damage to the greenhouse. Storage for renewables has always been an inadequate dream. Even the biggest battery in the world can only supply SA demand for 6 minutes. Instead the SA Govt has committed to a 250 MW single-stage gas turbine PS to back up its wind generation. “Committed to gas” means we’re going in the wrong direction.

        1. Zeke

          Nuclear energy is too expensive. Renewable energy and batteries is the way to go.
          You write about “wrong direction” and then tell us to go “back to the fifties” and do nuclear.

        2. Rais

          The biggest battery in the world is only a start. The Wright Brothers’ aircraft was the biggest aircraft in the world. Here in Perth we have big empty dams that used to supply southwestern WA with drinking water. We drink underground and desal water now. The dams only need turbines installed to provide not just minutes but days of power once pumped full from “intermittent” power sources which, in windy, sunny WA are not so intermittent. That’s if we continue with the supply of power by a grid. I could install batteries tomorrow and go off grid. So could my local shopping centre and the local hospital. It may be that power stations and grids are on their way out.

          1. bref

            Thanks Eve for your excellent article. Roger, nuclear is a crazy risky investment and unbelievably expensive. On top of astronomical development and operating costs, about 10 years ago a parliamentary enquiry estimated cleanup cost for retired nuclear plants in UK to be over 75 billion pounds. Such a vast number that they still haven’t done anything beyond guarding the sites to the tune of many millions of pounds a year. By far the best storage solutions are pumped hydro and large scale batteries. Another emerging solution not getting much airplay in Oz is using blockchain distribution of the power on the roofs of millions of homes.

    2. mike westerman

      Roger remind me one day to take you to Wivenhoe Pumped Hydro and show you what 10h of storage at 500MW looks like. When Australian’s are ready to pay for redundancy and security of supply without pollution, they will turn from gas and coal to pumped hydro. They won’t swap air pollution for thousands of years of radioactive storage.

      1. Roger Clifton

        Wivenhoe Dam’s enormous capacity is rare in Australia. Its first duty is be empty, to absorb floods coming down the Brisbane Valley before they inundate the city, so it is only intermittently (!) available for storage. It does at least buffer power generated by the relatively gas-efficient steam generators, so its use reduces somewhat the demand for CSG and the pollution implied.

        1. mike westerman

          Wivenhoe Pumped Hydro is quite independent of Wivenhoe Dam – WVPS can do a full 10h cycle without it even registering on WV dam levels. The only time it was even threatened was at the height of the drought, when WV in 2007 it hit 15%. Offstream pumped hydro in any case does not need those enormous volumes, unless of course our politicians decide the sun is no longer going to rise every day.

        2. bref

          ANU has identified many thousands of potential pumped hydro sites around Australia.

          1. Roger Clifton

            It’s not “ANU” that has “identified many thousands of potential pumped hydro sites”. If you track it down, you will find it has no identified author, as if an undergraduate whimsy that has escaped academic scrutiny. Look closer at those locations for a young river valley, but you’ll usually find just one more old (more or less flat) surface. And without running water to counter dry season evaporation.

          2. Rais

            Dozens would be enough anyway. There are other models for pumped hydro too that involve pumping seawater out and letting it flow back in through turbines. Our land is girt by sea, as somebody has observed.

          3. bref

            The point is, Roger, that we have no need to go down the path of nuclear.

          4. mike westerman

            The ANU team is headed by Prof Andrew Blakers – no tracking down needed! There are certainly criticisms regarding his methodology but the conclusion is accurate: there are many times more potentially viable sites for PHES than are needed. Compared to the enormous waste of water in the agricultural sector, make up water for the required PHES projects is a decimal point.

        3. Roger Clifton

          Prof Blakers has been around too long to let his name with be associated with nonsense written by and for believers. I suggest any skeptic check out the topography of any of the Central Australian sites for pairs of high-and-low reservoirs. But a moment’s thought would save them the bother. It’s “a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains”.

          1. mike westerman

            Never let the facts get in the way of your ideology eh Roger – I met by teleconference weekly with Prof Blakers on the next phase of his project so there is no doubt in my mind that he has rightly identified 22,000 potential sites and is seeking to refine their definition!
            Your ignorance continues by quoting McKellar, ignoring her next line: “Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains.” Fortunately us engineers don’t, and are seeking to exploit these ranges, and some of the flood water that otherwise goes to the sea.

          2. Roger Clifton

            “Check the number…” Yes, I accept that checking the numbers is the correct way to check the truth. And yes, it may well be that diesel exhausts etc are the source of the emissions that have been measured. And yes, methane emissions from CSG sites have serious consequences for atmospheric warming.

            You say you have access to fact that I do not. If you really do have direct access to Prof Blakers, perhaps you could connect us with a written statement that we could link readers and bloggers to. I suspect all you will ever get is the impression that there are enough practical sites to back up 100% renewable-powered Australia. We might pray that it is true, but in doing so we are ourselves potential prey.

          3. mike westerman

            Roger if you google Andrew Blakers pumped hydro you will find his recent presentations, citations and references to the ARENA funding of his current project etc. It’s all on the public record. I have examined some of his sites, and altho’ my own assessment is that properly exploiting any site requires very detailed exploration and development, that in no way detracts from his conclusion that access to sites is not the problem in progressing PHES in Australia. The challenges lie with a market place that only values energy, not capacity, and a government with all the enthusiasm of a sloth for providing an adequate planning of the transition to low emissions.

    3. Eve Sinton

      It does mention the leakage of methane: between 2007 and 2014it went from 12kg to over 160 tonnes. Other work from Southern CrossUniversity suggests this is a massive under-estimate.

    4. AR

      And Dodger greets the New Year, circa 1953, with his usual tired old trope, nukes-are-nifty but, unaccountably, left off the “electricity too cheap to meter” claim.

  4. graybul

    Exactly what part of Dr Geralyn McCarron’s findings of an 142% increase in circulatory/respiratory diseases on the Darling Downs between 2007 – 2014 was obscure?

    My reading was the good doctor referred to a linkage between CSG and a terrifying increase in hospitalization of DD residents. Did not read about any reference to wind farms, wind borne radiation, or installation of renewables. McCarron’s findings focussed upon a changed environment and suggested a direct causal CSG linkage. So what’s with all the obfuscation? And why the hell have responsible politicians and public servants gone to ground? If it was my child, grandparent or family member coughing their guts up . . . and all I could hear for concern was silence from those responsible or; broad ranging intellectual riposte’s favouring / disfavouring wind farms or nuclear alternative energy options . . . I would be deeply disappointed.

    1. Rais

      Fair enough comment. My sarcastic remark about the imaginary harms of wind farms was in support of the article. We need to be making all this poisoning of the land, water and air unnecessary.

  5. graybul

    As a territorian; this issue is far from being academic. We are currently up to the neck trying to resolve a frackking way forward. McCarron’s concerns are pertinent to our future health and decisions.

  6. klewso

    “Jobs, jobs, jobs” …. so they’re in hospitals …..

  7. Roger Clifton

    Yes, it is something of a surprise to see pyrolysis products like formaldehyde being associated with CSG. However the report does not focus solely on casualties coincident with passive CSG but also with underground gasification.

    Underground gasification certainly would produce the full range of low-temperature pyrolysis products with a risk of release from near-surface coal. It is a wonder that the perpetrators ever got permission to go ahead. I think you’ll find, or rather, I hope you will find, that no one gets permission to do underground gasification in Australia now. Not after an environmental mess like that anyway.

    1. mike westerman

      Most of the gas in this region is the result of thermogenic rather than biogenic generation, as the coal measures are very old, and any biogenic gas would long have dissipated. It is not surprising then to have relatively little carbon dioxide but significant amounts of pyrolytic compounds. Some of the pollution may well have resulted from flare gas, particularly the particulates. The underground gasification by Carbon Energy was in a very confined location whereas the pollutants reported are very widespread suggesting a cause unrelated to underground gasification.

      1. Roger Clifton

        … or widespread illicit underground gasification.

        1. mike westerman

          No evidence of this….

          1. Roger Clifton

            Evidence is in the width of spread of short-lived, low-temperature pyrolysis products. Smoke, in other words. And where there’s smoke…

        2. mike westerman

          Roger check the number of wells being drilled, the diesel used for the drills, the particulates emitted during flare off during dewatering, and you would realise there is no need for conspiracy theories about hidden underground gasification. CSG exploration and completion results in a cocktail of emissions with health impacts, and considerable fugitive methane emissions with atmosphere warming impacts.

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