News / Asia

Battles Rage in Australia over Coal Seam Gas

A facility for holding water pumped from underground during coal-seam gas mining is lined with black plastic before use on a property near Cecil Plains, 180 km (112 miles) west of Brisbane, October 31, 2011.
A facility for holding water pumped from underground during coal-seam gas mining is lined with black plastic before use on a property near Cecil Plains, 180 km (112 miles) west of Brisbane, October 31, 2011.
Phil Mercer

An Australian mining company says it could start exploring for coal seam gas next year beneath the country's most populous city, Sydney. Some residents are worried the extraction process could contaminate their water supplies and are mobilizing a large campaign against plans to mine near their homes. The methane gas industry insists the technology is safe and will bring immense economic benefits.

"We formed [a protest group], I think in November of last year, when a bunch of residents found out there was [a] plan to drill for coal seam gas in Saint Peters. We are seriously concerned about the impacts of this industry not just here in Saint Peters, but more broadly across New South Wales, particularly on precious water and our health," a speaker at the Anti-CSG demonstration in Sydney said.

Campaigners worry that Australia's coal seam gas industry is expanding too quickly and that the long-term effects of drilling close to residential areas are unknown. With expanding energy needs across Asia, analysts estimate Australia will try to meet the demand by building at least 20,000 coal seam gas wells by 2030.

In the Sydney suburb of Saint Peters, Jacinta Green has been leading opposition to the methane gas industry. She believes it could eventually encroach right across this densely populated part of Australia.

"If this well goes ahead in Saint Peters and the need to access this gas resource from [the] Sydney basin is so great then there will be a gas well in every single suburb," said Green.  "They can only extract the gas from a limited area. To get the gas out, to fully utilize that resource, they have to put a gas well every 10 kilometers."

Jacinta's house is a couple of minutes walk from the site in Saint Peters.

"If this project gets the go-ahead I will be down here every day," Green said. "I will be watching the site like a hawk. We will be barricading the streets the second we see that drill rig move in here."

The proposed drilling site now lies behind huge locked gates. The mining company that holds an exploration license that covers most of the Sydney region says it has no firm plans to extract coal seam gas in Saint Peters.

"Now whilst visiting the site and, lo and behold, behind me I witnessed a coal seam gas well suddenly explode," said Jeremy Buckingham, a New South Wales state parliament Greens Member of Parliament.

Buckingham described an accident at a drilling site on the outskirts of Sydney, earlier this year. He wants a moratorium on the industry until more research is done into the effects of coal seam gas.

"There are a range of concerns," Buckingham added.  "They have not been dealt with. We don't have the science and yet the industry is rolling out and so people are worried about the impacts of coal seam gas on ground water, on surface water. They are worried about coal seam gas and its impacts on our climate, leaks of methane and what impact that is going to have on climate, so there's a range of environmental issues."

This gas is trapped in underground reserves of coal. When water is pumped out the methane is released. Fracking, the process of re-injecting water and other chemicals to release gas, is not commonly used in the exploitation of Australian coal seams. Instead, horizontal drilling is usually favored.

In eastern Australia, it is estimated there is enough gas to power a city of five million people for 1,000 years.

The industry, which is dominated by multinational corporations, believes the more people know about coal seam gas the less they will fear it. Television advertisements have tried to sooth anxiety in the community.

"It is very safe. It is a well-proven technology and it is not materially different from the same natural gas production techniques that we have been using in Australia for nearly half a century now," said Rick Wilkinson of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

Wilkinson is predicting a coal seam gas boom for Australia.  "We are very close to energy-hungry Asia. Does not matter whether it is Japan, Korea - the traditional markets - or China and India that are all going to grow. They will need more and more energy and gas is a fantastic result. It is cleaner than all of the fossil fuels and will help transition to the renewable future," Wilkinson added.

Most of Australia's 2,700 coal seam gas wells are in Queensland. Thousands more could follow, but before approval is given the fight between economic opportunity and environmental sensitivities will continue.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid