Underground coal gasification plants must be shut down

Six Degrees press release

The decision by the Department of Resource Management to shut down Cougar Energy’s underground coal gasification (UCG) plant at Kingaroy is welcome but far too late.

In these experiments, companies are testing whether they can extract gas by burning coal seams underground. The Government has shut down the Cougar Energy Plant after it was discovered that local bores had become polluted and poisoned with carcinogenic chemicals.

Friends of the Earth spokesperson Drew Hutton, who has been working with Queensland farmers on gas issues, said environmentalists had told the Bligh Government at the start that UCG pilot plants should not be allowed because of their bad environmental record around the world.

According to Mr Hutton:  

The Government knew that UCG was a very questionable technology but still gave permission for three pilot plants to be set up – a Linc Energy plant at Chinchilla and a Carbon Energy plant at Kogan.

Now we have an aquifer at Kingaroy, upstream from the town water supply, that is poisoned with carcinogens like benzene and toluene.

The State Government is conducting an uncontrolled experiment with the environment of Queensland with both UCG and coal seam gas.

UCG must be shut down immediately and there must be a moratorium on all CSG development until there are clear answers to the questions being raised about its social and environmental impacts.

The Environment and Resource Management Department says Cougar Energy has reported traces of carcinogenic chemicals in tests on monitoring bores.

The Director-general of DERM, John Bradley, says farmers near the site are being asked not to use bores until further tests prove there is no more contamination.

All three of these UCG experiments have now reported environmental hazards. The ironically named Carbon Energy’s trial site in Chinchilla has leaked contaminated waste into a local creek system. Also, the Linc Energy trial has reported high salinity in water near their site on the Western Downs region.


6 Responses to “Underground coal gasification plants must be shut down”

  1. Graeme Henderson says:

    This disaster was predictable, and the same people who predicted this disaster see the same dangers and inevitable disasters with the other UCG plants, and with the 40000+ CSG wells to be drilled across the country.
    The miners and the government admit the risks, but simply hope that they can make a fortune before the damage comes to light. It is time to stop this entire unconventional gas industry until they can find a way to do it cleanly. The current Haliburton method is quick, dirty and destructive. DERM is full of pro mining people, it is corrupt. We need a dedicated EPA, full of people who want to protect the environment, not like the people in DERM who want to find ways to avoid an restrictions and who write Consent Authorities that allow mining companies to legally break the laws that protect not just the environment, but the communities and individuals within the environment as well. A Royal Commission into the links between mining and politicians is required, anyone who thinks Nuttall was the only pollie being being bribed, and that Talbot was the only corrupt miner is nuts, what is currently happening could not happen without corruption, it is the only logical explanation for so many repeated bad decisions.

  2. James Turner says:

    There was no disaster. A small chemical trace on-site at the Cougar site, with water still being of drinking quality. Further testing showing no traces. And no traces evident at surrounding bores. Then followed a hysterical reaction from DERM and the Bligh government, with Cougar forced to shut down. Clearly the coal seam gas industry feel threatened by UCG, a process that is environmentally friendly and liberates 20 times as much energy from a coal seam. And clearly the coal seam gas industry has too much influence in Qld, where they have a free hand to devastate the Great Artesian Basin while Bligh looks the other way thinking of those sweet, sweet royalties. Hence Linc Energy, who have a perfect environmental record back to 1999 (and who do not engage in “fracking”), have moved their commercial operation to SA to avoid the unlevel playing field. As for the Greens, they will never embrace UCG . . . as coal and nuclear energy are sins according to their religion.
    If we are to reduce our soaring importation of oil in Australia, UCG will play a huge part.

  3. Gary Smith says:

    Very well said James Turner. It is important that we are well informed, without the speculation. The accountability that environmental groups provide (or at least attempt) is important, but we must keep it all in perspective. If we were to shut down all USG projects and their progression with technology, then how many other industries must be immediately shut down that have a degree of environmental risk. We live with risk every day. The question then is this, with all things considered are the current USG projects a calculated and sensible risk? Yes.

  4. Graeme Henderson says:

    Gary Smith, on September 3rd, 2010 at 6:40 pm Said: “The question then is this, with all things considered are the current USG projects a calculated and sensible risk? Yes.”
    So obviously you have a stake in the profits from this dirty business, and live far enough away that you are not threatened by its dangers. I don’t want to live with the risk so that you can make a profit. For me the answer is no. We have nothing to gain and everything to loose, how is that acceptable??? Yes it’s calculated, but the calculation is the difference between murder and manslaughter. Sensible, no, it is insane.

  5. Gary Smith says:

    Graeme, your response is emotionally charged and completely uninformed. Sounds like a response from the Kingaroy Concerned Citizens Group.

  6. Gary Smith says:

    And yes, after researching UCG, I would have no issue with having a UCG plant within the area that i live.
    That’s USG not CSG – for which i have a different opinion.

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