Queensland – Home of the big rubber stamp

Drew Hutton - 16.6.2010

Coal seam gas is extracted from coal seams by releasing huge amounts of water which then allow methane to escape to the surface. The hundreds of thousands of megalitres of briny water brought to the surface are stored in collection ponds and the gas is pumped first to compressors, and then overland to domestic markets, or to the port of Gladstone where it will be liquefied and exported.   This is the biggest single project of any type in Queensland’s history — with $100 billion worth of gas sales “in the pipeline”.

A huge amount of building is on the way too. There will be at least 40,000 gas wells built across the Surat Basin. Thousands of kilometres of pipelines and hundreds of kilometres of service roads will be constructed and thousands of hectares of native bushland will be cleared. Compressor stations, LNG plants and major port facilities are also on the way and will require large amounts of fill and sea grass clearing. Many threatened species will be affected as will the Great Artesian Basin. As the Santos EIS itself acknowledges (pdf), the impacts on the Great Artesian Basin could be significant for hundreds of years.

The export side of the four companies’ operations will generate — through the energy required to extract, pump, compress and liquefy the gas as well as clear land for infrastructure — a huge volume of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

It also remains unclear what will be done with the huge amounts of water extracted for processing — and what impact this will have on the Great Artesian Basin. The water management plan is the missing component from the Santos EIS on which final approval for the project hangs.

A large area of the Surat Basin covers the Queensland section of the Murray-Darling. Large tonnages of salt lying around southern Queensland as a by-product of the extraction process will have downstream implications, especially for New South Wales. Fertile land will be put at risk for an industry with a 20-year life span — all because the Queensland Government can’t say no to mining companies.


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