Letter to the editor, The Courier, Narrabri.
If this is ‘failure’, sign me up, pronto!
Anyone trying to tell you USA natural gas is a ‘failure” or part of a “worldwide horror story” is genuinely misguided – or has possibly spent too much time reading activist blogs.
The truth is that in the USA, employment is up and business is booming. Manufacturing is flying on the back of historic-low energy costs. For the first time in 50 years, the country is now earning important net national income by exporting energy.
For the first time in US history, carbon emissions are falling – because of gas replacement for coal as an energy source. And despite the dire warnings of protesters over the past decade, there has been no environmental calamity.
From the Australian perspective, the most important lesson from the USA is that energy security – and its cost – is critical to the national interest and that natural gas can readily serve that interest.
The same gas now being exported in big quantities from Queensland – to the significant benefit of the State and the nation – could also be produced at Narrabri, to the significant benefit of the region and the State.
Gas supply is tight in NSW because demand has increased and the only new sources of supply brought on in recent years are north of the border – and those fields were developed for the previously non-existent Queensland export markets.
The only producing NSW gas facility is at Camden, near Sydney, and it is expected to close down in the next few years because it is running out of resource and has been unable to drill new wells because of anti-gas activism. Contrary to the letter published in The Courier (20 February), Camden is still operating as it has, safely, and without environmental “horror” or “uncontrollable leaking” for the past 17 years.
Camden is a coal-seam gas field, as are the operations in Queensland and those planned for Narrabri.
The NSW Chief Scientist spent 18 months studying coal-seam gas in Australia and overseas, using all resources of State and Commonwealth governments and studying the overseas experience. Her conclusion was that CSG was safe, and that the industry had the knowledge and experience to handle the risks, which were no bigger than those in any other extractive industry.
There had been “a lot of misinformation” published about the industry, she said.
Since then, the Commonwealth Chief Scientist has come to the same conclusion. So has every other scientific inquiry, including the most recent, lead by NSW Judge Rachel Pepper, in the Northern Territory.
Despite all this exhaustive and conclusive scientific work, some people remain determined to foster fear.
Why? For some of the bigger protest organisations, such as the multi-million-dollar Lock The Gate, confusion and fear is self-fulfilling. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of campaigning jobs to be had around the country, many supported by quasi-political groups such as GetUp, as well as renewable energy backers here and overseas.
Of course, debate is welcome. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and should not be denied opportunity to express it.
However, it should be incumbent on those choosing to make public comments – particularly those paid to do so – that they look at the facts first, rather than repeat agenda-driven claims which have been refuted by multiple independent authorities here and overseas.
A final point: Natural gas is sometimes called ‘unconventional’ because of the geology concerned or the way it is drilled, using the latest technology to unlock gas trapped deep underground (in some cases kilometres which are well below any aquifers, and usually separated by layers of non-permeable strata).
Hydraulic fracturing (dubbed ‘fracking’ by activists so they can tell gas companies to “frack off”) is a technique where water pressure is used to make hairline fractures in deep formations to enable trapped gas to escape.
There is no intention to use hydraulic fracturing in Narrabri because it will simply not be necessary. The gas is held in coal seams which should not require ‘frac stimulation’ to release gas.
Director, Energy Resource Information Centre