More facts on Condamine connectivity

September 9th, 2016

Another scientific analysis has dented activist claims that bubbling methane in the Condamine River has been exacerbated by gas activities.

A report supervised by Queensland University of Technology Professor Malcolm Cox and published in the journal Nature  found no evidence of gas migrating from the deep coal seams, and the shallow alluvium in the area (including beneath the river).

“Evidence of CH4 (methane) migration from the deep gas reservoir to the shallow coal measures (<200 metres) or the alluvium was not observed,” the report found.

“There is no evidence of leakage from the deeper gas reservoir to overlying shallow zones in the coal measures.”

The Condamine sits in the coal-rich Surat Basin.  It has bubbled for as long as locals can remember.

The area has coal beds relatively close to the surface, unlike most other areas where they are buried deep underground.

Where there are coal beds there is methane, and in some parts of the Surat Basin it can be found in the alluvial sands and in the groundwater.  That is why the first natural gas was tapped in Roma, in south-west Queensland not by drilling deep underground as happens today, but by separating the gas from groundwater.

That was as early as 1901, when Roma’s first ever street lights were powered by local gas, simply separated from groundwater.

Fast forward a century and activists are trying to claim that today’s natural gas drilling is causing the Condamine bubbling.

Despite the fact that the nearest well was more than a kilometre away from the site of the bubbling, in 2012 the Queensland Government dutifully set about investigating the activist claims.

What the scientists found was that the gas was indeed naturally occurring and that it was not connected to any drilling activities.

But activists only accept scientific reports if they support their case.

So, this year, NSW Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham set about “proving” the case himself, setting alight bubbles rising to the surface of the river.

That was enough for Mr Buckingham, for whom it was all about “the volume” of gas bubbling up.

This week, journalist and commentator Andrew Bolt took Mr Buckingham to task on a number of issues, including his claims about the supposed cause of the bubbles in the river.

A transcript of the relevant part of the exchange between Mr Bolt and Mr Buckingham follows:

Bolt: Professor Damian Barrett of the CSIRO… says that methane comes through a crack in the coal bed and that the coal seam gas industry has not caused that crack and that gas has probably been coming to the surface there for as long as people have been there.

Buckingham: What he didn’t say is what has caused that gas to come to the surface in the volumes … is that they’ve depressurised the coal seam. That’s what they do when they drill, frack and then depressurise…

Bolt: He said the rainfall there had added to the stresses, it was natural and that a Queensland Government review in 2012 found people had noticed the gas there for 60 years – long before any fracking.

Buckingham: That’s just not true. The gas hasn’t been there for 60 years – it’s spreading – they are wrong – and it’s remarkable that there’s coal seam gas wells all around and it’s exactly what you’d expect to see if you’d depressurised a coal seam gas seam.

Bolt: But even on that, the Queensland Government review said ‘Fracking: there’s no evidence of hydraulic fracking having occurred within 40 kilometres of the reported bubbling’.

Buckingham: That was in 2012.  There’s been fracking within a kilometre of that.

Bolt: Really?

Buckingham: There are gas wells within a kilometre of that.

Bolt: Fracking?

Buckingham: It’s in the middle of the biggest gasfield in Australia.

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