COAL seam gas developments could make nearby rivers bubble like spa vents as depressurised methane rushes to the surface, a new report reveals.
The report focuses on Queensland’s Condamine River, which gained international attention when a video of NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham lighting its surface on fire went viral.
Opponents of Santos’ proposed Narrabri Gas Project are concerned they’ll be seeing similar rivers of fire if the development is approved.
The report found depressurisation from CSG mining, combined with agricultural water extraction, “could significantly increase gas releases from weak or porous zones”.
Narrabri peanut producer Sarah Ciesiolka said the report showed farmers were “very right to be concerned”.
“It’s not just the river system, it’s the groundwater as well,” Ms Ciesiolka said.
“For us, groundwater is the biggest driver of business and without that, our viability is under threat.
“In Queensland, we’re seeing farmers lose bores to CSG. The methane emissions in bores were so high they were rendered useless and had to be decommissioned.”
Methane naturally seeps to the surface through geological faults, but CSG opponents are worried the leakage will be exacerbated by drilling and mining activities.
The Melbourne Energy Institute report was commissioned by the Australia Institute, an outspoken critic of CSG.
In a statement to ABC, Origin Energy said it had new data which showed Condamine River’s methane emissions had fallen significantly after peaking in early 2016.
“We recently saw the lowest measurement since recordings began in 2013 — a reduction of over 60 per cent in the last six months,” the company said.
The CSIRO said the gas bubbles were not necessary related to mining in the area.
“The methane that is bubbling to the surface is like many other deposits around that world that have coal in them and it’s finding its way through natural cracks and fissures to the surface through the Condamine River,” CSIRO Onshore Gas Program research director Damian Barrett said.
The report stated the limited data made it difficult to assess the full scale of the risk. It recommended an integrated geological-hydrological model to allow for a thorough analysis of the risks and to provide baseline data for gas migration.