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Coal seam gas enhanced Condamine methane bubbles intensifying, spreading to new parts of river

The notorious methane bubbles in the Condamine River appear to be spreading to new areas and becoming more intense, despite claims from gas companies that they had “mitigated” the issue.

New footage (available here, password: lockthegate) shows methane bubbling in areas of the Condamine River about 1km further east than the bubbles first identified in 2012, closer to the Chinchilla weir.

The discovery also comes after Condamine River tributary Charleys Creek, which passes through Chinchilla, began bubbling methane, and nearby old coal boreholes began spewing salty water in 2020. At the time, Origin told media it had addressed the issue.

A hydrologist report to the Queensland Palaszczuk Government in 2021 found nearby CSG activity had ‘enhanced’ the amount of methane escaping in the area. While the report claimed the more severe methane seeps had been mitigated, the new footage indicates it is in fact intensifying and spreading.

From p 26/29 of the report: 

“While the seeps are a natural system, the gas escape is enhanced by down-dip CSG production, which is approximately 1km away. The Condamine seeps were mitigated by reducing the pressure in the underlying traps through gas production combined with increased CSG production to capture more of the gas (APLNG, 2021). The seeps do however highlight that migrated free gas may not necessarily be reabsorbed onto the coal quicker than the rate at which it migrates."

Anti-coal seam gas activist Dayne “Frackman” Pratzky, who brought the original Condamine methane bubbles to the public’s attention a decade ago, said it was deeply disturbing that the methane seeps appeared to be spreading and intensifying.

“New areas of the river are now bubbling like a boiling broth, much closer to the Chinchilla Weir than impacted areas of the river first identified about a decade ago,” he said.

“The coal seam gas industry has spread across inland Queensland like a rash, so it’s no surprise that methane seepages are appearing in new areas. Attempts to mittigate these seeps by gas companies are clearly not stopping them from spreading to other parts of the river.

“What’s really concerning is the seeps that we can’t see. We only know about the Condamine River seeps because the bubbles are visible in water. I’d bet my hat on there being much more intense seeps all across the gasfields.”

Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland Coordinator Ellie Smith said the discovery had major implications for the new deal struck between the Greens and the Albanese Government over the Safeguard Mechanism.

“The Safeguard Mechanism will require emitters to reduce their net direct emissions year on year. But this will be extremely difficult to monitor and enforce when gas activity is increasing the rate of methane coming out of the ground in areas beyond the immediate gasfield,” she said.

“This is yet another reason why the Palaszczuk Government and Albanese Governments must abandon the failed coal seam gas experiment in Queensland. The climate is at the point of no return. Governments cannot approve any new gasfields if we are to stand a snowflake’s hope in hell of avoiding climate catastrophe, particularly when, as this new footage shows, the true extent of fugitive methane emissions is not properly understood.”

Chinchilla cattle farmer and Water for Rivers member Elena Garcia said it was a disturbing development. 

“The footage of the Condamine River bubbling like a spa is just shocking,” she said.

“If the methane is coming out due to the activities of the CSG industry, then there is a risk all the other poisons that were previously locked in the coal seams could be coming up as well.

“We’re up in the headwaters of the Murray-Darling Basin which is our heartland for agriculture, and which feeds and waters communities all the way down the east coast. If this methane is bubbling out of the river bed, that means salt could be coming up with it as well, and more poisons, because that is what was locked in the coal seam, and that’s going into the river now.”


Footage available (password for all videos is lockthegate):

Footage of methane bubbling in the river and Dayne Pratzky using a methane detector is here.

Drone footage of the methane bubbles is here.

Footage of Chinchilla cattle farmer and Water for Rivers member Elena Garcia discussing her concerns is here.

2017 footage of the old site of the methane bubbles, infrared vision identifying methane, and Origin Energy’s attempts to mitigate the seeps is here.

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