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

Integrated Project by Elfian Schieren, 2012

4.2 Water produced by coal seam gas

Water produced by CSG extraction contains compounds from fraccing and/or drilling fluids and mobilised heavy metals, hydrocarbons and radioactive elements from within the coal seam (NTN, 2011).

Many of the compounds both used in fraccing and drilling are not being clarified by CSG companies in their public information as they are considered to be industry "secrets" (NTN, 2011).

According to the CSIRO (2011) the water produced from the coal seam can be strongly saline containing mostly sodium chloride but also sodium bicarbonate and other compounds.

Research has found traces of highly toxic BTEX chemicals in an Arrow Energy fraccing operation in QLD. BTEX stands for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene constituting a compound that is naturally found 14

in fossil fuel deposits such as coal and has also been used in fraccing fluids (NTN, 2011). The QLD and NSW government have now banned the use of BTEX in fraccing fluids (NTN, 2011).

Chemicals still commonly used in fraccing fluids in Australia are listed in Table 1.

Approximately 200,000L of fluid can be used during a fraccing treatment and even a very small amount of benzene has the potential to poison thousands of litres of water (NTN, 2011).

Drilling fluids contain many compounds including biocides, corrosion inhibitors, salts (sodium chloride, zinc bromide, calcium chloride, potassium chloride), barium sulphate, emulsifiers, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, amides, bactericides, ammonium bisulphate and sodium sulphate amongst others.

These compounds vary in toxicity levels and health effects (IPIECA and OGP, 2009)

Table 1. Types of Chemicals Commonly Used in Fraccing Fluids in Australia (NTN, 2011).

Table 1. Types of Chemicals Commonly Used in Fraccing Fluids in Australia (NTN, 2011). Additive Type Main Compound(s) Purpose
Diluted Acid Hydrochloric Acid, Muriatic Acid Dissolves minerals
Biocides Glutaraldehyde, Tetrakis hydoxymethol phosphonium sulfate Eliminates bacteria in water that produce

corrosive products

Breaker Ammonium persulfate/ sodium


Delayed break gel polymer
Corrosion inhibitor n,n-dimenthyl formamide,

methanol, naphthalene, naptha,

nonyl phenol, acetaldhyde

Prevents corrosion of pipes
Friction Reducer Mineral oil, polyacrylamide Reduces friction of fluid
Gel Guar gum Thickens water
Iron Control Citric acid, thioglycolic acid Prevent metal oxides
KCl Potassium chloride Brine solution
pH adjusting agent Sodium or potassium carbonate Ethylene glycol Maintains pH
Scale inhibitor Sodium or potassium carbonate Isopropanol, Prevents scale deposits in pipe
Surfactants 2-Butoxyethanol Affects viscosity of fluid
Crosslinker Ethylene glycol Affects viscosity of fracking fluid

Figure 5. Historic Water Production from Petroleum and Gas Wells in the Surat Cumulative Management (Queensland Water Commission, 2012)

Water production figures (Figure 5) from 1995-2010 state that over 20,000ML/year is produced from CSG activities within the Surat Basin alone (Queensland Water Commission, 2012).

Figure 5 show that CSG developments have caused a dramatic increase in petroleum industry water production since the Surat Basin developments around 2005.

Most produced water is expected to be treated and used or injected into aquifers or reinjected into the coal seam (Arrow Energy, 2012).

Produced water is treated using reverse osmosis which involves forcing water through a semi-permeable membrane to remove contaminants.

The process has limitations in its ability to remove organic compounds, being capable of removing only those above a certain size (Bodalo-Santoyo et al., 2004).

The reverse osmosis technology also involves large capital and operating costs particularly in energy and materials and there still remains the issue of having to dispose of precipitated salts and contaminants (Greenlee et al., 2009).

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