Local farmers say they will do all they can to stop an Arrow Energy application to drill 14 new coal seam gas wells on some of Queensland’s best farmland.
The plan is part of the Shell and PetroChina owned company’s massive Surat Gas Project, which involves the drilling of many thousands of CSG wells between Cecil Plains and Wandoan on the Darling Downs. Phase one, which includes this application, involves the drilling of about 600 gas wells.
Arrow twice delayed submitting the application, which was first due in August, but was only made in December. Farmers have until January 27 to respond.
Springvale farmer Russell Young, whose property is covered by Arrow’s Regional Interest Development Application (RIDA), said, “It seems as though Arrow has deliberately pushed its application back into the Christmas holiday period to make it inconvenient for farmers to respond.
“The simple reality of it is that these gas companies need to drain the aquifers we rely on to get the gas out. That’s why subsidence is occurring.
“No extra regulation will soften the impact - coexistence is a myth. You can’t farm on this country and live with the impacts of gas. It’s not possible.”
Lock the Gate Alliance Queensland coordinator Ellie Smith said while Arrow was required to apply before receiving approval to drill on the state-designated Priority Agricultural Area, the Palaszczuk Government always sided with fossil fuel companies when assessing the applications.
“As far as we’re aware, to date, the Palaszczuk Government has never refused a gas company application to drill on prime farmland,” Ms Smith said.
“This is the best of the best farmland we’re talking about. Yet gas companies are regularly granted approval to drill all over it, causing subsidence, draining groundwater, and wreaking havoc on the physical and mental health of local communities."
Springvale farmer Celia Karp, whose property is also covered by the RIDA, said, “The Queensland Government should never have approved the Surat Gas Project on the Condamine Floodplain.
“Its flatness, combined with CSG drilling, is a recipe for subsidence disaster. It is also at the headwaters of the Murray-Darling Basin and long term, CSG will be devastating for the river system and its communities.
“This area should be a no go zone for CSG. It's designated as a Priority Agricultural Area, which should afford it protection, but in practice this means very little when the decision is being made by a government that has an unhealthy relationship with the coal seam gas industry."
According to QLD government figures, as of early 2021, there were approximately 8,600 coal seam gas wells in an area roughly corresponding with the Darling Downs, Western Downs, and Central Highlands regions. This figure is expected to triple in the next 15 - 20 years.
At least 187 water bores relied on by farmers in this area have run dry due to depressurisation caused by CSG mining, with 702 bores expected to be drained long term.
For the first time, this year, the Queensland Gasfields Commission formally acknowledged coal seam gas drilling and associated depressurisation was causing farmland to sink in places, affecting crop yields.
Earlier this year, Arrow Energy was fined $1 million for drilling deviated coal seam gas wells beneath farmers’ properties without access agreements.
Arrow’s Environmental Impact Statement for the Surat Gas Project says the infrastructure required for the whole project is estimated as:
- approximately 7,500 production wells;
- approximately 18 production facilities across the project development area;
- gathering lines for gas and water, and pipelines to transport gas from the wells to processing facilities and then on to the sales gas pipeline; and
- gas powered generators to provide power for the project