Putting an emissions report into context

November 4th, 2014

An Australian expert on coal seam gas has, in one fell swoop, put paid to the latest scaremongering campaign being propagated by Australian opponents to the responsible development of natural gas resources.

The campaign – which again sees activist groups tweeting media stories about reports they probably have never read – centres on this study report which claims that hydraulic fracturing causes high concentrations of volatile compounds to be released into the air.

As with any claim made about the gas industry, it’s helpful to know who is behind it.

One group contributing to the report is an outfit based in California called Global Community Monitor, which has variously claimed that fracking can never be made safe, and that their clear goal is for an outright ban on the practice.

The acknowledgements section of the report also makes for interesting reading – a collection of anti-fracking and anti-industry groups get thanks from the researchers.

Katie Brown from Energy in Depth has completed an exhaustive analysis of this report – and finds that the central scientific methods employed in gathering data for the report are, at best, considered to be dubious.

So, what does our local expert say?

Professor Andrew Garnett from the University of Queensland’s Centre for Coal Seam Gas, is reported as saying:

“Those operations and the gases and emissions concerned are not analogous to Queensland, CSG operations. In particular, the report describes emissions from relatively “liquids rich” gas operations with significantly different composition than that typically found in Queensland CSG.”

The article goes on to explain that:

“The typical American gas referred to in the paper contained up to 17% ethane, propane and butane, which was absent in typical Australian CSG”.

That qualification hasn’t stopped some activist groups jumping onto the scaremongering bandwagon in their ongoing efforts to mislead regional communities and engender fear.

Instead of relying on US studies that relate primarily to shale extraction, a better source of information about emissions from Australian coal seam gas operations was released earlier this year by the Commonwealth Department of the Environment.

In the report Field Measurements of Fugitive Emissions from Equipment and Well Casings in Australian Coal Seam Gas Productions Facilities, researchers from the CSIRO found that:

These emission rates are very much lower than those that have been reported for U.S. unconventional gas production.” (Page iii)

And, commenting on US studies that the researchers examined in the course of their study:

They were concerned with shale and tight gas operations, which are unlikely to be indicative of emissions from Australian CSG production facilities” (Page 2).

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