Transparency needed for CSG: Operators

The mere mention of coal seam gas in many parts of the country causes the eruption of polarising debate.

Anti-CSG campaigners argue there is not enough scientific evidence the practice won’t harm water tables, the environment and the health of those living around wells.

Operators in the sector have come up against strong opposition to the development of CSG, with protestors doing their best to halt or slow operations.

Origin Energy chief executive Grant King has now weighed in on the debate saying people aren’t open to the facts about CSG and many who are against it are circulating mistruths, The Australian reports.

"The answers are simple — they are clear and straightforward," King said.

"To the extent where people who are opposed, who are not interested in those answers because the basis of their opposition is not about those facts, that is where the greatest concern is – because they are then happy to propagate misrepresentations.

"My biggest concern is not the facts of the matter, it's that there is clearly a small group of people who have an ideological opposition to what is happening and who don't feel bound to that same level of facts that we do."

CSG has seen $60 billion in investment injected into new Queensland projects and created about 10,000 jobs in the past year.

But it’s a sector which didn’t anticipate the backlash it would encounter.

Recognising this, CSG’s major players are stepping up to highlight the facts.

Santos exiting chairman Peter Coates recently said the company needs to do a better job to educate communities about the positive impacts.

Managing Director of BG Group's Australian subsidiary QGC, Derek Fisher, agrees saying the sector underestimated the power of misinformation distributed by opposition groups, including the "exaggerated" claims that the industry would contaminate the water tables and risk prime farming land.

"These past few years should cause the resource sector to seriously think about how it modernises its approach to public and policy advocacy, to constantly make and remake the case for our industry and the numerous advantages it is bringing to Australia," Fisher said.

Fisher explained that CSG is a heavily regulated sector.

"This is probably the most regulated industry in Australia and has had so much light shone on it that it's sunburnt — but this has not been enough for our critics," he said.

Queensland’s Curtis Island LNG project has more than 1500 state and federal environmental conditions, and at least another 8000 sub-conditions.

Vocal anti-CSG campaigner and Lock the Gate Alliance president Drew Hutton said Queensland’s LNG projects were given the go-ahead “before the community had a chance to assess the impacts, which is how they got a foothold”.

"The people in the rest of Australia, especially in NSW, have seen that happening out there and they don't like it and that has reinforced their determination to make sure it doesn't come into their area," he said.

The peak body for Australia’s oil and gas industry said millions of Australian’s support the CSG sector everyday, cooking with gas and using gas hot water systems and heaters.

"Public support in the areas where projects are being developed is strong," APPEA director of external affairs Michael Bradley said.

"More than 3500 agreements have been negotiated between Queensland farmers and gas developers. It is no longer a question of can agriculture and gas production work side by side – it does."

King says scientific evidence discredits claims being circulated by opposition groups.

"The two concerns with the water issue is contamination of reservoirs using toxic chemicals that will contaminate aquifers and the other is it will drain the Great Artesian Basin," King said.

"It's just factual that we don't use toxic chemicals, so there cannot be contamination from fracking or drilling activities. It's that simple."

The extraction of CSG in Australia is quite different from the extraction of shale gas in the US which requires the use of different chemicals and involves more force to draw the gas out from harder rocks.

In Australia many of the seams which holds the gas are comprised of softer rock, which doesn’t require significant amounts of fracking when compared to the US.

King explains recent CSIRO reports on the Great Artesian Basin show the impact of CSG production will be slight.

"If we aren't willing to accept the work of the CSIRO and Queensland Water Resources Commission using science that is not controversial, I'm not sure where we go,” he said.

“People can make as many claims as they want but the science of aquifer modelling is not controversial; it's been done for years."

The production of both conventional and unconventional gas has been happening for 40 years in Queensland, the difference today is the amount of larger projects being developed, The Australian reports.

"That increase in scale impacted more people and created more concerns and we might not have addressed those concerns as quickly and as effectively as we should have," King said.

With this in mind, Origin set out to drill a 1500m well in the Surat Basin, removed the rock section, and cut it into lengths to demonstrate where the aquifers are and where the company extracts the CSG from.

"We've taken that to Canberra and had the expected level of interest at a political and technical level from the Coalition and the government, but not one Green politician accepted our invitation to have a look," King said.


AGL is another company which is looking to increase transparency and educate the Australian public on its NSW operations; Australian Mining will this week visit a number of its sites, farmers, and opposition groups in a bid to find the truth somewhere in the middle of the polarising debate.

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