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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

4.3 Contamination of Groundwater

Major threats to ground water quality are from salinity, acidity, nutrients and contaminants such as heavy metals, industrial chemicals and pesticides.

Contamination of ground water can have significant economic impacts through decreasing agricultural and horticultural productivity, causing environmental damage in ground water dependent ecosystems and pose serious risks to human and animal health (Geoscience Australia, 2011).

Opportunities for contamination from CSG occur via interconnectivity between aquifers and gas wells, disposal of produced water and leakages (NTN, 2011).

Problems such as borehole fractures and compression failures (Asquith and Krygowski, 2004) may allow the transmission of fluids and gases into permeable rock layers adjacent to gas wells.

Reports from the United States indicate that leakage from holding ponds and wells has occurred into nearby streams and in some cases risen to the surface in fields via aquifers (Bamberger and Oswald, 2012).

In Tara, QLD spraying produced water onto roads as a dust suppressant is considered a viable option for disposal (Arrow Energy Pty Ltd, 2012).

Contaminants entering the environment through these channels can be transported elsewhere via wind and water posing health risks to animals and humans (see section 5.2 for details).

Queensland residents report of methane leaking into the Condamine River in Western Downs region (Wroe, 2012).

Another Queensland resident reports that his domestic bore experienced explosions and can catch fire if naked flame is held to it (McCarthy, 2012).

Arrow Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement (2012) states that the Condamine Aquifer overlies the Walloon Coal measures in several places and that there is possible connectivity between the two.

According to the Queensland Government and Origin Energy, the methane leaking through the river is naturally occurring due to a shallow coal seam under the surface.

Origin Energy made clear it was their understanding the leakage was natural because they had no production wells nearby, however, they were unable to be absolutely certain and made no mention of possible locations of exploration wells (Rego, 2012).

Research in America discovered that methane concentrations have occurred in high to explosive levels (above 7-10mg/L) near to gas extraction wells.

Levels of 19.2 and 64 mg/L of methane were recorded from bore wells in gas extraction areas in Pennsylvania and New York (Osborn et al, 2011).

An assessment of 58 gas wells in Tara in QLD identified 26 leaking wells, 5 of which were leaking above the lower explosive limits for methane (Australian Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation, 2010).

A NSW inquiry into coal seam gas concludes that the potential impacts to water resources could be disastrous and that urgent scientific research is needed to assess the potential for these impacts to occur (NSW Parliament, 2012).

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