AGL subdues fracking fears

About 300 people in Gloucester were reassured by senior AGL managers last night extracting coal seam gas was a low-risk industry.

Much of the debate was about water quality and contamination of groundwater sources, the Newcastle Herald reported.

AGL’s group manager for upstream gas Mike Moraza told the gathering the public were in a quandary: continual supply of affordable gas in NSW.

While he agreed the community was concerned about the CSG industry, he said the extraction process would pose no risk.

He said AGL would use the fracking process in the gas project but it would not contaminate groundwater sources. He added fracking fluids will be 98 per cent sand and water.

AGL was condemned for what was deemed as insufficient water studies and approval processes by the state government.

 Groundwater consultant Philip Pells told the gathering AGL’s water study was poor and also slammed the state approval systems.

“It is a shambles,” he said.

Police were present at the meeting where live recording was prohibited even though the crowd wanted electronic media to be allowed to record presentations.

But an arrangement beforehand between AGL and Gloucester Shire Council, which helped organise the meeting, prevented this from happening.

Barrington-Gloucester Stroud Preservation Alliance spokesman Graeme Healy said the ban built the case for mistrust against the company.

The Gloucester gas project received approval by the federal government earlier this year. The first stage involves 110 wells, with more than 300 wells in the offing in the Gloucester Basin.

Meanwhile, AGL announced yesterday it has started trials to see if water from its coal seam gas wells can be used for agricultural irrigation.

The trial will combine ‘produced’ water with fresh water. It is part of the exploration stage of its gas project.

The company’s hydrology manager John Ross said the trial would show if blended water was safe.

“If successful, this means that the community will have access to water for farming that would otherwise be unavailable, and means more fresh water for other community uses,” Ross said.

“At the same time it will produce additional fodder for livestock.”

The company wants to see if irrigating crops with mixed water is sustainable. The trial mixes produced water from deep in coal seams with fresh water sources.

The trial will take place over 16 separate trial plots over 12 hectares. It will last for 18 months to two years.

The first crops to be trialled will be triticale and lucerne.

The NSW Department of Trade and Investment approved the trial along with the Office of Water and the Environment Protection Authority.

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