Australian govt calls for more gas exploration after research finds fracking safe
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Claims bandied about by groups such as Lock the Gate Alliance that hydraulic fracture stimulation – popularly known as fracking – of coal seam gas wells negatively impact on the environment have been debunked by Australia’s lead scientific agency CSIRO.
In its comprehensive three-year study into fracking in Queensland, the CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) found that it had little to no impact on air quality, soils, groundwater and waterways.
It also found that current water treatment technology used for treating water produced from coal seam gas wells was effective in removing hydraulic fracturing chemicals along with naturally occurring chemicals to within relevant water quality guidelines.
“This new research provides valuable data about hydraulic fracturing in coal seam gas formations in the Surat Basin, Queensland,” GISERA director Dr Damian Barrett said.
“Previously, the only information about hydraulic fracturing was from overseas studies in quite different shale gas formations.”
Federal Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said the report should pave the way for further investment in gas exploration and development across Australia.
He added that the study brought together researchers from the CSIRO, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, University of Queensland and Macquarie University and it confirmed that coal seam gas fracking was a safe practice.
“It dispels the misinformation anti-gas activists have been spreading about the CSG industry, which is poised to deliver thousands of new jobs and millions of dollars in new revenue,” he noted.
The results of the study were also welcomed by upstream oil and gas industry body the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA), which said it backed up over a dozen independent scientific inquiries that confirmed properly regulated, hydraulic fracturing was a safe practice.
“While there are some in the community who continue to make false and exaggerated claims about the environmental impacts of gas exploration and production, all the credible evidence confirms properly conducted gas activities have negligible impacts,” APPEA chief executive Andrew McConville said.
Not to be outdone, Lock the Gate Alliance said the GISERA study was narrow and limited as it only examined six wells over a six-month period.
It also took issue with the study being majority funded by vested interests, noting that Origin Energy (ASX:ORG) contributed 74 per cent of the phase-one funding and 61 per cent of the phase-two funding.
“We wouldn’t be accepting cancer research from tobacco companies, so we should not be accepting fracking research from gas companies,” Lock the Gate national coordinator Naomi Hogan said.
“If Origin stopped trying to silence farmers and Traditional Owners, and started listening to their own customers, the company would hear a call for it to move more swiftly to renewable energy, and stop dirty fracking activities.”