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Queensland Coal Seam Gas

Queensland's coal seam gas industry has grown rapidly over the last fifteen years and as at the end of 2020, there were approximately 8,600 coal seam gas (CSG) wells across inland Queensland.

The Maranoa and Western Downs regions of the Surat Basin currently host the majority (approx 84%) of Queensland’s CSG activities with the remainder in the southern Bowen Basin (central Qld).

Coal Seam Gas in Queensland

An increasingly large body of scientific and anecdotal evidence is revealing the devastating impact the CSG industry is having both above and below the ground in some of Queensland’s best farming regions.

In September, a report published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland, found the more than 22,000 wells planned for Southern QLD could cause irreversible damage

A big part of the report’s concerns focused around how CSG extraction was causing farmland to subside – an issue that has cost farmers near Dalby due to the impact it has had on harvesting crops, and that the government only publicly admitted was a problem in April 2022.

 

 

CSG Scandals

Scandals are rocking Queensland’s coal seam gas industry at an increasingly frequent rate as projects spread out over the state’s best farmland.

The biggest penalty handed to a company for wrongdoing so far was in March 2022 when Shell and PetroChina owned Arrow Energy, which is developing its 8,600 square kilometre Surat Gas Project, was fined $1 million for illegally drilling deviated wells beneath farmers’ land without permission.

Origin Energy has also been in the news after it was fined a mere $60,000 in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for releasing nearly one billion litres of contaminated coal seam gas wastewater to spill onto farmland and into waterways near Wandoan. 

 

In early 2023, a new incidence of gas bubbling from the Condamine River was reported, raising the alarm that methane seeps into the waterway are more widespread than previously revealed, amid the continued ramp-up of coal-seam gas drilling in the Darling Downs.

Coal Seam Gas Wastewater (Brine)

Despite allowing the coal seam gas industry to spread across vast areas of the state, the State Government still has no formal policy for how gas companies should dispose of the six million tonnes of waste the industry is expected to produce. This waste is heavily laden with salt and heavy metals, and experts say it would need to be monitored “in perpetuity” to prevent contamination.

CSG Wastewater Ponds near Chinchilla, Qld

The release of the Qld Government's long-awaited CSG Brine Management Action Plan in early 2023 has sparked fears for the health of the Murray-Darling River System. The plan concludes that the most likely option for the 5-6 million tonnes of toxic “brine” will be to store it in landfill within “lining” - a solution that independent scientists say is fraught with risks, including that the lining would fail, especially during flood events, and that the stored waste could then leach into the environment over time.