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Index > Australia > NSW > Coal seam gas development in Northern Rivers > Risks to water resources

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An overview of possible impacts from coal seam gas development in Northern Rivers, New South Wales
by Elfian Schieren, 2012

1. Introduction
2. Energy and coal seam gas development
2.1 Economic viability underpinning coal seam gas development
2.2 Renewable, sustainable energy development
- Solar
- Wind
- Biogas
2.3 Coal seam gas development at a global scale
2.4 Coal seam gas development in Australia
3 Coal seam gas extraction process
- Drilling and dewatering
- Hydraulic Fracturing
- Produced Water
4 Risks to water resources from coal seam gas development
4.4 Ground water use
4.5 Water produced by coal seam gas
4.6 Contamination of Groundwater
5 Other Consequences of coal seam gas development
5.4 Impacts to agricultural production
5.5 Health impacts on humans and animals
5.6 Impacts on greenhouse gas emissions
5.7 Impacts on seismic activity
5.8 Economic impacts
5.9 Cumulative impacts
6 Potential for coal seam gas development in Northern Rivers, New South Wales
6.1 Northern Rivers Region
6.2 Using trade-offs and opportunity costs in evaluating CSG development
6.3 Prospects for development in Northern Rivers region
6.4 Energy development in Northern Rivers region
6.5 Northern Rivers community actions and groups in response to CSG development
7 Discussion
8 Conclusion
9 References

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Pacific Power
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Pacific Power History

AJ Lucas Capital Raising 2002

Allan Campbell AJ Lucas Chairman's Address 2002 - Sydney Water

ICAC Sydney Water 2011

State planning minister Tony Kelly

Chris Hartcher


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ICAC finds corrupt conduct over Mount Penny

ICAC finds corrupt conduct in relation to Doyles Creek coal exploration licence

ICAC recommends tighter controls to minimise coal mining corruption

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Hon Edward Obeid MLC Circular Quay retail leases

ICAC public inquiry into alleged corruption involving former ministers and MP in relation to mining exploration licences and other matters

ICAC - Hon Joe Tripodi MP
Minister for Energy and Minister for Ports and Waterways

ICAC report finds no substance to corruption allegations involving Michael McGurk and others

ICAC releases report on its investigation into the conduct of the Hon. J. Richard Face MP

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2004 gas blow out 300m away in the same wells

Lies, damned lies, statistics
and AGL

AGL’s Gloucester ‘Produced Water’ Irrigation Trial
“A Sham and a Farce!”

CSG companies ignore water quality guidelines in irrigation reports

NoFibs Gloucester Showdown

Fracking near Gloucester homes under AGL’s latest coal seam gas plans

Federal member for Lyne
Dr David Gillespie

AGL buys up Hunter Valley vineyards

AGL versus
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A matter of trust: – letter to Gloucester Advocate

Rob Oakeshott's coal seam gas press releases
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2011 NSW Parliament
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Affected Mid North Coast Councils

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Thomas Davey, Tourism Advancing Gloucester

MidCoast Water

New South Wales Farmers Associations Dairy Committee

Bruce Robertson,
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Steven Robinson, Psychiatrist

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An overview of possible impacts from coal seam gas development in Northern Rivers, New South Wales

Integrated Project by Elfian Schieren, 2012

4. Risks to water resources from coal seam gas development

4.1 Groundwater use

Impacts of overexploitation and contamination of water are particularly concerning to residents in CSG development regions.

Most of the CSG development in QLD and NSW overlies the Great Artesian Basin where a huge expansion of CSG exploration and commercial CSG production has occurred in the Surat Basin (Queensland Water Commission, 2012).

Processes used to remove methane from coal seam, such as dewatering, involve the exchange of large volumes of water from a higher to a lower grade of produced water (Queensland Water Commission, 2012).

The process of dewatering creates a vacuum into which water from overlying or adjacent aquifers will tend to flow and can potentially remove large amounts of water from subterranean aquifers quicker than recharge can occur (Winders, 2012).

This can create cones of depression in the water table causing drawdown in existing bores which is particularly concerning for bore water users as it has the potential to impacts rural domestic water supplies (Winders, 2012).

Density of CSG wells could be a potential factor in groundwater impacts. Petroleum extraction well clusters have been shown to cause detrimental impacts to groundwater levels in the Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia (Abderrahman et al., 1995).

Produced water can be considered a reduction in water due to the fact that it involves contaminating higher quality water with salts and other drilling or fraccing compounds or compounds naturally occurring in the coal seam.

This creates a potential loss of opportunities to use the water for potable and other domestic purposes (NTN, 2011).

Modelled predictions on the long term impacts of CSG water production in the Walloon Coal Measures suggest up to 150m depressurisation which would cause a maximum drawdown of 21m within existing bores (Queensland Water Commission, 2012).

Declining ground water levels are expected to start impacting the Condamine Alluvial, a major water resource in Western Downs, QLD, by 2017 and estimate a net loss of 1,100M/L per year over the next century (Queensland Water Commission, 2012).

Several farmers in Western Downs have already experienced drawdown in their bores.

Mining companies promise to “make good” any inconveniences to the landowner but the economic viability of making good is questionable.

A hydro-engineer and feedlot owner from Western Downs estimates that water loss to a bore supplying 200 head of cattle would cost $216 per day, equal to $78 840 per year (Winders, 2012).

There are currently 21,000 bore users at risk of drawdown impacts suggesting there is a considerable cost involved for gas companies “making good” if even only half of these people demand compensation (Queensland Water Commission, 2012).

It is estimated that only 528 of registered bore users will experience such water loss as to trigger make good agreements but this figure is based on modelling (Queensland Water Commission, 2012) and may not be totally accurate.

According to Australia Pacific LNG, Origin and Conoco Phillips (2012) there will be an estimated 75,000ML – 140, 000ML/year removed from the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) through CSG production.

Their estimates state that the GAB is recharged by 912,120ML/year and therefore will not suffer significant impacts from CSG (Australia Pacific LNG, 2012).

According other estimates by SMICCSG (2011), based on current production schedules CSG, water production is expected to peak around 200, 000ML/year in the Surat Basin alone.

The difference in these figures illustrates the uncertainties of CSG water impact assessments.

Proper scientific assessment of water impacts is restricted by the fact that much of the existing data is held by coal seam gas companies in industry confidence (NSW Parliament, 2012).

Generally, impacts are considered by most studies to be variable and dependent on geology and level of CSG development (SMICCSG, 2011).

Most likely the more serious drawdown impacts will be regional and localised (Abderrahman et al., 1995).

Globally, water scarcity in the face of population increase and climate change is considered a far greater threat to the global community than climate change itself and recommended as a priority management for all nations (Vorosmarty et al., 2008).

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