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

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid