Monday, 5 December 2016

ONE OF THE PROBLEMS WITH GAS-MINING EMISSIONS


Australia could be underestimating its annual greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to the output of the nation's entire transport sector”. This was the startling finding released last month by the Melbourne Energy Institute.

According to the report, Australia's carbon accounting problem stems from a failure to include the fugitive emissions released during the production phase of unconventional gas, i.e. gas extracted from coal seams, shale and sandstone. Currently the level of fugitive emissions is set at only 0.1% of production; in other words the authorities are conveniently ignoring them. The authors point out that this level, is in stark contrast to measurements made at US unconventional gas fields, where measured leakage rates have been found to be as high as 17% of production, 170 times higher than Australia's assumed figure.

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, is a process used to blast apart underground rock seams to release the methane, which is lighter than air and a highly potent greenhouse gas. Therefore it stands to reason that when those rock seams are shattered, not all the gas will conveniently flow into the pipes for capture, but will seep upwards through the fractured rocks to the ground's surface and into the atmosphere.

In south-east Queensland, residents living inside gas fields are reporting a range of health problems which are consistent with the inhalation of methane. The occurrence of fugitive methane in the air was supported when, some three years ago, methane was found bubbling freely up through the Condamine River, and further confirmed by Southern Cross University Researchers who recorded methane levels within the gas fields many times higher than elsewhere.

Any claim that the industry didn't know this would occur should be summarily dismissed. Any engineer would have known the risks, they simply ignored them as an expedient measure to support their grab for riches, and it's still being ignored.

This poses a serious problem for the government which has committed to the Paris agreement calling for emissions reduction because, with every new well drilled, the problem worsens, and those leaks continue for ever, even after extraction ceases and the wells are capped.

- John Edwards

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on November 14, 2016   

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

QUEENSLAND GASFIELD TOUR – A KNITTING NANNA’S REPORT



A group of Knitting Nannas Against Gas from the Clarence Valley travelled to Chinchilla in the Queensland gasfields for the second annual Knitting Nanna (KNAG) conference which was held from September 26-28. Nannas from NSW and Queensland as well as some from further afield (e.g. Alice Springs) assembled for the conference and the gasfield tour on the last day. Nanna Lynette was deeply affected by the experience of seeing what a gasfield is really like.  Her report of the Nannas’ tour of the Kenya Gasfield (one of a number of gasfields close to Chinchilla) is below.

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Nanna Lynette's Report

I found that although I’d seen many photos and movies of gasfields and had heard people talk about them, nothing prepared me for visiting a gasfield and walking around the infrastructure and hearing the massive amount of noise. The size of the Kenya gasfield and the amount of infrastructure was mind-blowing.  

Gas Well


The gas from the field is piped to the Kenya processing plant and after processing is piped to Gladstone. The processing plant, which covers an area of a couple of acres, consists of three massive metal structures about five storeys high.  The noise coming from this was horrendous. We were standing about a kilometre away and where we were the noise was deafening.

The next part of the tour was a visit to the State Forest where some of the actual Kenya gaswells are. Initially they were about a kilometre apart but when production slowed they drilled other wells in between the existing ones so that the wells were then 500 metres apart.  Each well sits in a cleared pad of at least a quarter of an acre.  This means you’ve a fractured environment because the ground is bare except for some gravel over it.  And each well makes a horrific noise as well.

The whole area is massively noisy and dusty because of all the clearing.  

Nannas in a corridor infested with fireweed


The cleared pipeline corridors are about 100 metres wide and have been taken over by weeds like fireweed.  Along the main pipeline there are vents – high point vents and low point vents about 400 metres apart. 

The high point vents vent raw gas 24 hours a day. Of course this smells.  It just goes straight into the atmosphere. The low point vents expel moisture which is collected in troughs and presumably evaporates if it doesn’t overflow.
 
High point vent

We spent between four and five hours on the gasfield tour with gas company officials following us around the whole time.

During the tour my eyes started stinging and I started to get a headache.  Nearly everyone had these symptoms.  A couple of people had nose bleeds.  I can’t even begin to think of what the people who are surrounded by gasfields are going through.  The side effects of living close to a gasfield are very real.  These unfortunate people are not making it up.

The trip and the tour was a good thing to do. I am left feeling really thankful that we have kept this industry away from the NSW North Coast.

Cartoon from the local paper

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

THE PLAINT OF PHASCOLARCTOS CINEREUS




Stoned on oily eucalypt leaves, high in the cleft of a gum-tree bough,
Snoozy phascolartctos cinereus, indifferent to the world below;
For aeons we let that world go by, but our creeping ghetto isolation,
Without a blow, without a sigh, is wiping out our population.

While we koalas are protected our habitat is not,
When illegal logging fells our home, precious leaves are left to rot.
Starving we are forced to roam, but in the bush our fate is grim
Down on the ground and helpless when daylight’s getting dim
We’re completely at the mercy of attacking dogs and cars that speed.
They smash our bones, kill our young, leave us lying there to bleed.

While red-neck councillors and strutting pollies display us for the gaze
Of VIPs, foreign tourists get their jollies nursing us in sanctuaries
Ignoring the cause of our fearful plight, the death of our habitat.
Please, human beings, take up the fight before Phascolarctos cinereus
Forever will depart.

            - Dorothy Hillis


Photo: Stan Mussared