A new study has recorded methane leakage from coal seam gas mining in the Darling Downs in Queensland at rates that may render it a far dirtier polluting industry than coal mining.
The researchers, Dr Isaac Santos and Dr Damien Maher, used sophisticated new equipment to measure methane levels around the coal seam gas fields between Tara and Chinchilla. They also did comparison measurements outside the gas field. The results were presented at a public lecture at Southern Cross University in Lismore on the evening of the 14th November.
The study showed methane levels in the CSG areas as high as 6.89 parts per million, compared with background levels below 2 parts per million. The most likely source of the methane is leakage directly from the ground through cracks and fissures in the underground rock layers – something which the gas industry has never measured.
Currently, this whole class of fugitive emissions is not included in carbon accounting, but if gas companies are made to measure and pay for those emissions under the carbon price it is likely to cost them billions of dollars and render the industry economically unviable.
Lock the Gate President, Drew Hutton, said the results would send shock waves through government and scientific circles because they revealed large gaps in the standard methodology for assessing fugitive methane emissions.
“The Federal Government currently works on the assumption that fugitive methane emissions from coal seam gas are 0.12% of all gas produced” Mr Hutton said.
“However if the SCU results from Tara-Chinchilla were extrapolated across all gas fields in Qld, then emissions would be many times higher.
“This study has massive implications for accounting for Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions since methane is a very potent greenhouse gas.
“It also means the CSG industry would need to pay much higher carbon tax than is currently predicted” he said.
The Alliance is calling on the Federal Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet, to:
- Implement a moratorium on coal seam gas exports from Australia until further study has been done to verify the results of this research.
- Immediately commission a thorough independent study of the scale of fugitive emissions from coal seam gas mining, including emissions directly from the ground.
- In the interim, implement a revised greenhouse gas accounting method that more accurately reflects this new information.