Gas study finds nothing wrong yet
University studies have found no negative environmental impacts from coal seam gas exploration in a key NSW catchment.
Baseline testing by the Southern Cross University was undertaken to provide a snapshot of air and water quality in the Richmond River catchment, prior to the start of CSG production.
Atmospheric trace gas concentrations were measured around the town of Casino over the course of a year, and combined with samples taken from more than 90 groundwater bores in the catchment.
Researcher Dr Isaac Santos says he found no evidence of methane leaking from coal seams yet.
But the industry has not yet begun full-scale CSG extraction.
“There is no cause for concern in the Richmond River catchment,” he told reporters this week.
“Our information doesn't point to any impacts.
“We don't have any exploration at the moment - we have a few wells in the ground but they're not active, and we don't have any evidence for those specific wells leaking methane across the multiple aquifers.”
Dr Santos said it was important that data collection continued, so that a full picture of the impact of the industry could be contstructed.
“We are relying on wells from the community and the government, and those wells from the government have been in the ground for over 20 years most of them,” he said.
“So there is a serious issue in the context of our baseline research, in that we're not able to design the research around the gas exploration.”
The expert suggested similar testing be carried out in all prospective coal seam gas areas.
“We had a number of cases elsewhere in Australia and overseas in [which] the gas companies start operations, but we don't have any information on the chemistry of the groundwater,” he said.
“So it becomes impossible to distinguish whether any unusual concentrations of methane are related to mining, or they are natural.”