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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More