Report says most QLD coal seam gas wells not dangerous

A report by the Queensland government on the coal seam gas (CSG) industry in the state says most CSG well heads are operating within strict safety standards.

The results released late yesterday by the Queensland Employment, Skills and Mining Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe says 98 per cent of the 2700 wells tested shoed no reportable leaks.

The industry-wide audit into Queensland CSG wells came following concerns by residents over wells installed on properties in the Tara area.

"Only five of the 2719 well sites inspected throughout Queensland had leaks of a recognised flammable risk," Hinchliffe said.

"While they posed limited risks to workers and the community, action was taken to fix them as soon as possible.

"A further 29 leaks were detected that were below the flammable range.

"These leaks posed very little to no safety and health risk to the community or CSG workers and were fixed."

Hinchliffe also announced the coal seam gas and liquefied natural gas industries must comply with tough new reporting standards under the State Government Code of Practice for detecting and managing gas emissions at well sites.

He said the Code of Practice ordered strict reporting of detection and remediation of well head leaks.

"Companies must now immediately fix leaks that fall over the reportable level- even those which may have a very low volume of gas- and report those leaks to the Government’s Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate," Hinchliffe said.

"The minimum is set at just 10% of the concentration needed to sustain a flame, even though leaks at that level pose very little to no safety health risk to workers or the community.

"The 10% minimum set in the Code is far tougher than the 20%-25% concentration levels commonly used by gas and emergency workers responding to domestic gas leaks.

"We have set this rigorous standard to ensure that community expectations about safety and the environment are not just met, but exceeded."

According to Hinchcliffe, the new code of practise will set new guidelines for companies on their ongoing testing, monitoring and maintenance regimes.

"What we have now is a consistent standard for the testing and reporting of gas leaks based on science and potential risk," he said.

"Industry audits will be accompanied by regular random audits by the Petroleum and Gas inspectorate.

"The community can have confidence because as a result of this program and tough new reporting guidelines, we have a safer industry with stricter controls.”

Hinchliffe said much of the gas extracted during the CSG process would be converted to LNG and exported to key Asian markets.

"LNG is fast becoming an important, lower-emission, transitional fuel as domestic and international markets look for viable alternatives to coal," he said.

"It’s an industry that is expected to bring 18,000 direct and indirect jobs to Queensland.

"Already, the three LNG projects with State and Federal approvals are proposing a combined investment of up to $66 billion in Queensland over the next four years.

"This Government supports development of the industry and understands the need to balance its development with agriculture, the environment and social impacts."

The Queensland government says the Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate will continue to monitor the safety and compliance of companies, with nine new inspectors employed since mid 2010.

The Bligh Government has also introduced regulations for the CSG industries including new land access laws that ensure the rights of landowners in their dealings with resource companies and template contracts that set out guidelines for compensation for landowners .

Under the regulations, the deliberate use of BTEX chemicals in the fraccing process is banned and CSG companies are required to provide ten days written notice prior to commencing activities such as fraccing.

It has also created the CSG-LNG Enforcement Unit to regulate the industry.

Last month, an expert said the coal seam gas industry requires better planning.

These comments came as politicians in Queensland were accused of preventing an inquiry into the controversial industry.

Image: Six Degrees



To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.