Farmers are outraged over an amendment by Arrow Energy which, if approved, would allow the multinational company to drill hundreds of additional gas wells through land and groundwater potentially contaminated by the Linc Energy underground coal gasification disaster.
Arrow, a joint venture (50/50) between Shell and PetroChina has applied to increase the number of coal seam gas wells it wants to drill at Hopeland, on the Western Downs, from the existing six to 286 as part of its mammoth Surat Gas Project.
The company also wants to build 440km of water and gas pipelines to support the increase in wells.
Hopeland was the site of the failed Linc Energy underground coal gasification experiment, which contaminated surrounding land and underground water despite warnings from scientists and cost the Queensland taxpayer $31M in clean up bills.
In the wake of the disaster, it was revealed hundreds of square kilometres of prime agricultural land across the Downs were at risk from a cocktail of toxic chemicals and explosive gases due to the failures at the Linc site. At the time, the State Government imposed an "excavation exclusion zone" on 314 square kilometres around the Linc facility where landholders would be banned from digging any hole deeper than two metres.
In 2019 it was revealed that despite the Queensland Government creating a 10km CSG exclusion zone around the Linc disaster area on one neighbouring petroleum license (PL493) where Arrow wanted to drill 70 gas wells, the exclusion zone was not implemented on the PL that actually encompassed the Linc site, PL 253. It is PL 253 where Arrow now wants to drill 280 additional wells, and farmers believe the 10km no-go zone should apply to this license area as well.
Brian Bender, whose property is less than 10km from the former Linc site, said he did not believe Arrow’s proposal was safe.
“Arrow can say whatever it likes about this site but I would like to see some independent research conducted as well as more information from the department confirming what Arrow is claiming in its application,” he said.
“I’m a firm believer nothing should be done until the Linc energy situation is fully resolved and at this stage it is simply not resolved.
“There should not be any CSG activity around the Linc Energy site.
“The risk of further contamination is too great. Until all the information regarding the damage has been released, there should be no drilling at that location.
“There are too many unknowns in this situation.”
Mr Bender also said he supported the Queensland Government buying back domestic water bores that were connected to the Walloon coal measure due to the risk of contamination.
The application comes just months after it was revealed gas and water began bubbling up through old coal exploration drill holes on farming properties at Chinchilla near coal seam gas wells.
The 2019 Underground water impact report (UWIR) for the Surat Basin showed more than 100 farming bores in the Surat Basin had been drained due to the CSG industry, and predicted a further 500 would be drained if the industry expanded locally as expected.
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland spokesperson Ellie Smith called on the Queensland Government to reject Arrow’s application.
“Coal seam gas is a risky enough business as it is,” she said.
“For Arrow to want to drill hundreds of wells at Hopeland near the Linc underground coal gasification disaster is simply madness.
“We must stop sacrificing our best farmland to greedy gas companies who are wrecking Queensland’s land and water just so they can flog dirty gas to the highest bidder.”