Coal Seam Gas Explained: The CSG Debate

by BobinOz on May 16, 2012

in Australia's Bad Things

This isn’t a “fun” post, but you do come here to read about what it’s really like to live in Australia, don’t you? Well, this is part of what it’s really like…

Usually when I write posts here on BobinOz it’s to offer information, to inform people about life in Australia. But with today’s post I am looking for information, I am asking for more knowledge and I am encouraging you all to give me your opinions.

Because today’s post is about coal seam gas (CSG) in Australia.

So, what do I know about CSG?

Well, this morning when I woke up, I knew virtually nothing. What I did know about it, I could have written on the back of a postage stamp.

It would have read “CSG stands for coal seam gas, and lots of people don’t like it.”

Since I’ve lived here, the rumblings about coal seam gas have been getting louder and more frequent and the protests have become stronger. So I decided it was time I knew more.

Since waking up then, I have spent a couple of hours searching Google, reading about CSG and writing this post. So, here’s what I now think I know…

The process:

  • Coal seam gas is actually methane gas found in coal seams.
  • It is extracted from coal deposits that are too deep to mine economically.
  • These coal seams need to be stimulated by hydraulic fracturing known as fracking.
  • This process appears (I think) to use a lot of water, much of which comes out the other end contaminated and needs to be taken away by trucks to be disposed of safely.
  • The scale and speed of growth of the CSG industry in the past decade has been described as astonishing.
  • Australia could end up with as many as 40,000 coal seam gas wells.
  • These wells could draw up to 300 gigalitres of water from the ground each year!

The alleged problems:

  • CSG mining is an expensive process, so all equipment has to run 24 hours a day, including those transport vehicles.
  • Wells can be drilled within 200 metres of houses under some licenses.
  • These wells can and do leak methane into the environment and it has been known to get into the domestic water supply.
  • Methane is highly explosive and a fire hazard.
  • The huge amounts of water required can lead to major water shortages.
  • Each well requires a 1 hectare slab of concrete around it with a security fence.

That’s just a few of them; I’ve hardly scratched the surface.

Where is all this coal seam gas?

Coal Seam Gas Map 480x227 Coal Seam Gas Explained: The CSG DebateMostly on the east coast, in Queensland and New South Wales.

My map isn’t interactive, it’s just a picture. You can check out the full interactive map and find the source of some of my information on this page: ABC CSG Map.

I decided to use their excellent interactive map to see if there was any CSG activity near where I live. Guess what? There was something going on about 10 minutes from my house, in a suburb called Moggill.

Coal seam gas in Moggill? A sleepy suburb of Brisbane?

Let me make it clear; there is no “well” there, but a company called Arrow Energy does have a coal seam gas exploration permit granted for a huge area covering Brisbane’s Western suburbs. The permit last until 2018.

I went to the precise spot that was pinpointed on the ABC interactive map, and this could possibly be the site….

Coal Seam Gas Site 480x360 Coal Seam Gas Explained: The CSG DebateIt’s actually right by our new post office and opposite the local infant and junior school…

School 480x360 Coal Seam Gas Explained: The CSG DebateDidn’t they say this stuff was highly explosive?

A spokeswoman for Arrow Energy, which is co-owned by multinational corporations PetroChina and Shell, says it has no intention of using the permit.

“There has been no exploration for gas in the suburbs of Brisbane, and Arrow has no intention to do so,” she said in an email statement a couple of months ago.

Oh, that’s okay then. Erm, just one question. Why did you get the permit then?

Source: 9 News

Conclusion:

They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and I certainly only have a little knowledge about coal seam gas. But coal seam gas, to me, seems to be a dangerous thing.

It could well be that out of all the scary things in Australia that I’ve ever written about, this might just be the scariest.

Lock the Gate Alliance Inc.

Much of my information came from Lock the Gate; I’ll give you a couple of links to their website in a minute. But first, why is it called lock the gate?

They say the problems start when you allow representatives of these companies to access your property. They say the only way to stop them is to lock the gate, don’t let them in, put up a “No Trespassers” sign, don’t let them charm you.

As they say on their website, a typical ploy of these companies would be to say “We have no plan to…”

Oh dear! Isn’t that what the spokeswoman said about exploration in Moggill?

To find out more about CSG, please do click on the links within this post and also visit Lock the Gate and, in particular, their CSG Myths.

Finally, I invite you to watch this short video clip which will give you a good idea of the scale of the battle we have on our hands. There is a reference in the video to 1979 and Terania Creek in New South Wales.

That was a rainforest war, protesters looking to prevent loggers from destroying more trees. Today’s battle is about saving our water and, says the film, ultimately our lives…

There you have it. As I’ve already said, my knowledge of CSG is very limited. To be more precise, it’s limited to 2 hours research, but I’ve already learned enough to put this into my Australia’s bad things category.

Am I right to do that? My questions to you are…

Coal seam gas, should we really be that scared? Is it an Australian bad thing? Let’s have a debate in the comments below….

UPDATE:

From the comments so far below, it has become clear that coal seam gas is an Australian bad thing. Only one person has defended CSG, and he works in industry.

A leading campaigner against CSG who has joined this debate is Heidi Ross. I am grateful to Heidi for her contribution and also for a link she has posted in the comments to a YouTube video.

She says the video gives her “goosebumps every time – it’s heartwarming and inspiring”. It certainly is inspiring and did give me goosebumps too; between you and I, I welled up a bit.

It’s that powerful, I have decided to embed the video in this post.

In video I have posted above, towards the end, the captions say….

“Our government has betrayed us,
the deals are done.
The only defence we have now…
…IS THE PEOPLE.

Well, the people of Keerrong and The Channon, which is just 50 km or so West of New South Wales’ second most popular tourist destination, Byron Bay, are fighting back and it is indeed inspiring.

If they can fight back, so can we all…

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{ 60 comments… read them below or add one }

Joel May 16, 2012 at 9:56 pm

It is a bad thing when the goverment grant permisions to do this in, next or even close to residential areas; otherwise, it won’t be such a big deal.

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BobinOz May 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I agree, I wouldn’t want to live next door to one.

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Joel May 16, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Unless it causes a problem with water supply, in that case, it should be regulated.

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BobinOz May 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I agree even more, there’s not much worse than running out of water!

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Martin May 16, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Hi Bob,

Interesting article you put together on CSG, but it is a little one-sided. I will be honest with you, I do work for a CSG company, but do this because it is one of the most environmentally friendly sources (if not the most) of fossil fuels. Of course renewable energy sources are even greener, but are at this moment not scalable enough to fulfill our ever increasing demand.

OK, just some comments on your facts:
- Coal seam gas is actually methane gas found in coal seams (all good).
- It is extracted from coal deposits (yes) that are too deep to mine economically (sorry but coal mines flare or vent the gas before they mine the coal, most CSG companies share their tenements with coal companies and “harvest” the gas for beneficial use before the coal mines come in).
- These coal seams need to be stimulated by hydraulic fracturing known as fracking (technique only used for a small number of the wells).
- This process appears (I think) to use a lot of water (correct, water is pumped downhole under high pressure with sand and some extremely small amounts of household chemicals to crack the coal), much of which comes out the other end contaminated (after the fracking operation this water gets produced from the same hole where it was pumped into, together with formation water and gets cleaned, mainly salt taken out) and needs to be taken away by trucks (through pipes) to be disposed of safely.
- The scale and speed of growth of the CSG industry in the past decade has been described as astonishing (absolutely true and at the moment it is one of the most regulated industries in the world).
- Australia could end up with as many as 40,000 coal seam gas wells (indeed could be).
- These wells could draw up to 300 gigalitres of water from the ground each year (don’t know the exact numbers, only know all farmers in the same area use 5 times more water for irrigation purposes and do this already for the last 100 years)!
- CSG mining is an expensive process, so all equipment has to run 24 hours a day, including those transport vehicles (correct, just as mining, only the gas gets transported by pipeline and not by trains and trucks).
- Wells can be drilled within 200 metres of houses under some licenses (correct but not preferably, both for operator and householder this is not ideal).
- These wells can and do leak methane into the environment and it has been known to get into the domestic water supply (wells can leak but normally don’t, would not know how it ever could get into the domestic water supply as these systems are completely separated, please be aware that methane is already formed by degrading garden waste and is the most common form of organic compound on earth, furthermore Methane is not toxic – for more infor see Wikipedia).
- Methane is highly explosive and a fire hazard (from Wikipedia: “As a gas, methane, is flammable only over a narrow range of concentrations (5–15%) in air”.)
- The huge amounts of water required can lead to major water shortages (as said before the farmers use way more and all CSG companies would like to hand their treated water to farmers for agricultural use so they don’t have to use groundwater).
- Each well requires a 1 hectare slab of concrete around it with a security fence (most well pads are 70X70m = 0.5 hectare and once the wells are drilled the occupied area is reduced to around 20x20m = 0.04 hectare. No concrete will be used).

Some other facts:
- It’s not a new industry – for the past 15 years CSG has been used safely to power Queensland homes
- It’s powering your home today – CSG generates around 90 per cent of Queensland’s domestic gas supply and around 18 per cent of our electricity comes from gas fired power stations
- Gas is cleaner than coal – electricity generated from Queensland CSG is between 50 and 70 per cent cleaner than electricity produced from coal
- It’s highly regulated – the Queensland Government has put in place some of the toughest regulations and approval conditions for resource projects anywhere in the world

As I do understand you may not trust this information as I might be biased, therefore I would like to draw your attention to the DEEDI website on CSG: http://www.industry.qld.gov.au/lng/fact-sheets-faqs.html.

Hope this helps, Martin

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BobinOz May 17, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Hi Martin

Firstly, thank you for being up front with us right from the start and telling us you work for a CSG company. As for your points, I will comment briefly, but I will not be entering into a debate with you on this.

It’s only a hunch of mine, but I suspect my two hours of knowledge will not be enough for me to outwit you or bamboozle you with science, something I don’t think you would have any trouble doing with me, in a nice way of course.

As I said, I’m here to learn about this stuff, so I do appreciate you giving me the view from “the other side”, meaning from someone in the industry.

I think the main areas of contention between what I have read and what you have said in your comments are around the use of water. You say farmers use five times as much water for irrigation purposes, and you have implied that the water the CSG industry does use is simply cleaned up, and some salt is extracted and dumped.

I read something like a possible 31,000,000 tonnes of salt will need to be dumped over the next 30 years. That’s a lot of trucks driving around, or an awful lot of piping that needs to be laid. None of this strikes me as being very environmentally friendly.

I would have also thought that irrigating the land with water so that the food we need to eat will grow seems like a healthy use of water. Mixing water with chemicals and sand and blasting away with it deep underground to extract a gas doesn’t seem such a healthy use of water to me, so I don’t think the two can be compared.

You say these Wells can leak but normally don’t, Lock the Gate say “Over 50% of wells tested in Queensland leak methane. Many landholders have reported instances of methane in their stock watering bores and even household taps.”

You say methane gas is “cleaner than coal”, but other sources I read have suggested that once you take everything into account, the methane leakage into the air, the trucks driving around full of salt, all the pipes that have to be dug, the huge plants operating 24/7, and the process of mining the methane, then the cost to the environment is far greater, so it doesn’t make it that green an energy after all.

I also read, again on the ABC website, and I quote “….very few of us know that methane is 22-or-so times nastier than carbon dioxide.

Once again, let me start by saying ‘everything is made from atoms’.

Carbon dioxide is made from one atom of carbon and two atoms of oxygen. Methane is a bigger molecule. It’s made from one atom of carbon and four atoms of hydrogen.

So, one tonne of methane has the same carbon dioxide equivalent as 22 tonnes of carbon dioxide.”

Source: ABC Science

So, as you can see, I’m not convinced. I did take a look at the website you recommended, but there is so much information there and I am not yet ready to dedicate my life to finding out all about CSG.

Besides, I’ve always felt that if something is so complicated that you need to study lots and lots of information to fully understand it, them somebody is trying to hide something.

But why should anybody take any notice of me, I started off by saying I was going to be brief!

Cheers

Bob

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Martin May 21, 2012 at 9:28 am

Hi Bob,

Let me first make clear I am not trying to convince you or anybody that CSG is a great thing. I fully agree with you that solar is where we want to go. Just would like to join the dialogue, to show there is another side of the coin (and for others, I am just like Bob a guy that moved to Oz some time ago and settling in in Brisbane).
So unless we are willing to give up our current lifestyle, I believe, that we need a fuel to bridge the gap between our current reliance on oil/coal energy and the future solar promise. Currently a lot of money IS invested in the development of more efficient solar cells, but even when the break-through happens it will take at least 10-15 years to rebuild all infrastructure to rely on this form of energy (eg we can’t switch in one year all cooking/heating/industry/cars etc around the world). The source currently available that is cleaner than oil/coal, is gas. And CSG is currently even a waste product of the mines, they vent or burn it!
On the water front, CSG companies clean the pumped-up water using Reverse Osmosis, this process cleans the water so well that it is cleaner than drinking water (look it up on the internet). The CSG companies have to mix this water with minerals to make sure it matches the exact surface water composition before they can use it.
The salt is indeed an issue, currently there are studies under-way to see if the salt can be cleaned to make table salt out of it.
Furthermore, fully agree that all the infrastructure that is needed to produce CSG will disrupt some peoples live and in limited areas, wildlife. But surely NOT to the extent the coal mines do (have a look at the satellite pictures).
In the mean time we can do whatever possible to use less energy in our day2day life. Australia is still very high on the list of energy/capita and I don’t believe that is needed as the climate is rather mild compared to countries around us on the list (Norway, Sweden).

Happy to continue the dialogue.

Martin

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BobinOz May 21, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Hi Martin

Heidi, who has made a comment a little further down, has answered your claim about how good the water is after it’s been cleaned up, which is lucky for me because she knows way more than I do.

I also don’t believe our need for this energy is as desperate as you are suggesting, I think it’s more a case of the need for many companies to make more money and governments to collect more tax.

You are welcome to continue your dialogue, but it’s probably going to be you against everybody else :-)

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Martin May 29, 2012 at 12:25 pm

Hi Bob,

Me again ;-).

It is just the context in which you see the whole CSG debate. I see it very much in the light of the damage coal does to the environment and our health. I think we need to stop that ASAP (for more info see this article: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/05/201252614334480622.html#.T8LTtkn0qEY.facebook and the role cheap gas plays).

Furthermore fully agree with Heidi that Oz needs to diversify the economy and not heavily rely on the resources industry which for sure is an ending story.

On keeping up the discussion, I like to understand as much of why you and other people think it is not a good idea, it is always good to see things from a different perspective.

Oh and on the water, all CSG companies are required to test the water on the chemicals Heidi mentioned (and we do so, but very rarely find anything). But don’t think that will make you feel any more comfortable with CSG :-)

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BobinOz May 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Martin, that’s a very interesting context in which you view CSG/coal mining. That’s a bit like suggesting someone give up smoking those 25 cigarettes and switch to 10 cigars a day instead.

Surely better advice would be to give both up?

And if you really want to know why many of us don’t think CSG is a good idea, just read the comments and watch the videos.

Nice of you to pop back though :-)

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Chris April 23, 2013 at 7:52 am

Hi Martin,

If you are still there, you may find this book and website (links below) helpful support for your arguments. I think the book gives a great introduction to the benefits of Fossil Fuels, like Coal Seam Gas, to human life.

Hope this helps.

Best,

Chris

http://industrialprogress.com/book/
http://industrialprogress.com

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Martin April 23, 2013 at 8:19 am

Chris,

Thanks very much, but can’t find myself supporting the content of this book. Very much human focused, while we do not live alone on this planet.

Martin

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Chris October 2, 2013 at 4:31 pm

You are right, we live on this planet with animals, insects, and plants that can be a danger to us but thank you to fossil fuels they are not. With fossil fuels we have built hospitals to go to if we are bitten by spiders or snakes, pesticides to kill weeds, and repellants to get rid of mosquitoes. When you look at the big picture energy has made a world a lot safer.

I think if you don’t stand up for yourself as a human you will have a big problem in trying to convince the other side that CSG is a good energy source.

Because if environmentalists really wanted to develop an energy source that had the smallest foot print/CO2 output per unit of energy produced they would get behind nuclear power. But they have bashed that down as well.

Environmentalists are against humans changing the environment to improve human life. That’s why they like solar and wind because they think “incorrectly” that it doesn’t change the environment and is somehow natural. You only need to have a look at how the components of solar panels and wind turbines are produced in China to know that that is rubbish.

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Nicky May 18, 2012 at 7:40 am

Like you Bob I’ve read a bit and have learnt a bit more about ‘the other side’ from Martin. However I’m not so comforted by his assurances that the industry is highly regulated and therefore safe. Clive Palmer and the rest paid big money to win the election with the aim of reducing those ‘burdens on industry’.

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BobinOz May 19, 2012 at 9:05 pm

No, Martin hasn’t comforted me either. I actually wonder if Martin is a regular reader? Martin, are you a regular reader? Or is it your job to monitor comments about CSG and then comment yourself, defending your industry?

I’m not trying to be hostile, just wondering.

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Chris Newbold May 18, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Bob, as well as the stuff mentioned above there is also a discussion as to whether Fracking could have caused minor Earthquakes in the UK, one of them near Blackpool.
http://stop-csg-illawarra.org/csg-risks/seismic-activity/
Theres a big debate going on over here as to how safe or unsafe this process is.

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BobinOz May 19, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Yes, I’d heard about that from my sister, thanks for the link to confirm it.

I also vaguely recall a news item here in Australia, and don’t quote me on this because it is a vague memory, but the news item reported a large hole appearing in the ground (I think in the middle of a road) for no reason, and many people said it was due to fracking.

These things in themselves must surely make CSG expiration a bad thing?

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Rupert May 19, 2012 at 7:10 am

A: The Australian Government (like ALL elected and unelected powers) is made up of idiots with vested interests in the pursuit of short-term wealth for themselves at the expense of our children’s futures.

B: Nothing that damages our well-being and health through ANY form of contamination of our water or land can be called ‘green’.

A+B=C, which is:

C: A small minority get disgustingly rich YET AGAIN by fracking everybody else where the sun don’t shine and calling it ‘progress’, dressing it up as renewable energy. Cough, splutter, yeah right, pull the other one.

CSG is definitely a BAD THING and we should do everything we can to vote out of office those who support it. There are more than two parties you know…

Yes, the world has an energy crisis, of course. So what should we do? Consume less and stop population growth – duh! China? India? Anyone? Either way – we’re all dead anyway, so what happens in Australia is probably irrelevant. Shame really. But we’re all so preoccupied with our own apathetic and inane pursuits, by the time we’ve sat up and noticed we’ve been had, it’ll be way too late to do anything about it.

Pass the tequila!

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BobinOz May 19, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Yes please, I’ll have a shot of that tequila!

I think this fracking lark is only supported by politicians and miners. The miners for obvious reasons, the pollies for the $850 million worth of tax they will get each year from the industry, and that’s just Queensland.

If the goal is renewable, green energy, why aren’t we pumping money into solar? Doesn’t come much greener than that.

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Heidi Ross May 20, 2012 at 10:32 am

Bob, Your last comment summed it up — it’s all about the money and we’re supposed to lie down and cop it for the greater good – both for the economy and also as a power source for Australia (highly misleading because much of our gas is for export).

I come from the Scenic Rim, just south-west of Brisbane behind the Gold coast. We’re so close, we share a gas exploration permit with you. I’m also part of Keep the Scenic Rim Scenic — a very active community group fighting to keep gas and coal out of this region and also regions similar to ours.

Yes, wells can be 200m from a house, but perhaps equally worrying is the cumulative affect — in tight coal regions like ours, to produce CSG, Arrow Energy will need wells appx every 800m. The catch is each well is linked by a number pipelines, access roads (large truck width) and waste water holding dams. (google tara CSG image to see what it looks like)… with noisy 24-hour compressor stations every 15-20km. So CSG isn’t just one little wellpad …as the ads say.

Fracking: yes, it’s not common, but Arrow Energy has already fracked our region in exploration – a site which is right beside the Logan River, just upstream from the Beaudesert/Jimboomba SEQ water grid drinking water intake and also part of the greater catchment for Brisbane and Gold Coast water. The waste water dam and some wells were in the flood zone and also a declared landslip zone — so all the regulation which is designed to protect us still, to me, looks questionable. Fracking is banned in several parts of the world and on hold in the New York catchment because they’re also worried about potential for water contamination.

Scratch the surface and you find the industry spin, including ads with no real signs of gas production, and then you’ll also find truly independent studies — keepthescenicrimscenic.com also has info you might find interesting. Also Keep the Scenic Rim Scenic – group on Face book.
Regards,

Heidi Ross (who did find your great blog from a google search of CSG)

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Heidi Ross May 20, 2012 at 10:38 am

I also meant to stress that we’re among thousands of ordinary people across Australia who’re being forced to become ‘activists’, for want of a better word to defend the places we live. Last January, 15 of us were arrested for trying to stop drilling on a farm within 80km of Brisbane. We blockaded the drill rig for 10-days, 24 hour a day to try to force Arrow Energy to meet with us and agree to baseline testing of local water bores before further drilling — remembering a baseline has to be done before an activity otherwise you cannot prove damage after. The final stand of the Kerry Blockade sums up what is happening to the farmers and landholders of Australia: http://youtu.be/dX8lRlucOWc

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Heidi Ross May 21, 2012 at 10:31 am

In response to Martin, a quick search of very credible scientific papers shows no treatment, including reverse osmosis, will remove ALL CSG contaminants particularly the low molecular weights substances, (see below). This is therefore of great concern when our Queensland Government allows ‘treated water’ to be into drinking supplies, used for irrigation and put into creeks. In parts of the US there is already pressure to stop CSG waste going into drinking supplies because of the build up of these chemicals and known health impacts.
Quote below from Dr Mariann Lloyd-Smith PhD (Law), Senior Advisor, IPEN – International POPs Elimination Network, Senior Advisor, National Toxics Network Inc:
“The optimism of industry and regulatory agencies in regards to Reverse Osmosis membrane filtration technology to adequately treat contaminated produce water is not justified. Despite reassurances from CSG companies on this issue, the fact remains that reverse osmosis filtration has significant limitations and cannot remove all contaminants.[1] While, “the three mechanisms by which a molecule may be rejected by the reverse osmosis membrane are size exclusions (or sieving), electrostatic repulsion and hydrophobic adsorption”[2], in general, if the contaminants are larger in size than water molecules, those contaminants will be filtered out. If the contaminants are smaller in size, they remain in the water. Chemicals unable to be successfully treated include bromoform, chloroform, naphthalene, nonylphenol, octylphenol, dichloroacetic acid, trichloroethylene, tris(2-chloroethyl)-phosphate. Low molecular weight, non polar, water soluble solutes such as the methanol and ethylene glycol are also poorly rejected.[3]”
Links:
[1] http://www.industry.qld.gov.au/documents/LNG/csg-water-beneficial-use-approval.pdf.Also see : Stuart J. Khan Quantitative chemical exposure assessment for water recycling schemes, Waterlines Report Series No 27, March 2010 Commissioned by the National Water Commission.

[2] ibid

[3] http://www.aquatechnology.net/reverse_osmosis.html

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BobinOz May 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Hi Heidi

Thanks for all the information you have provided and especially for answering Martin’s assertion that the water is cleaned thoroughly by these CSG companies.

You have also shown us this is a real battle, between real people and large corporations, that is being fought on peoples doorsteps. I recommend everyone take a look at that video link you provided, good hard working Aussies shouldn’t need to be doing this stuff.

It is thanks to people like you and all those behind your community and the website keepthescenicrimscenic.com that we just might have a chance of stopping all this disruption and ultimate destruction of Australia’s countryside and of people’s homes and farms.

Let’s face it, if other countries have banned fracking, something is clearly wrong with the process.

Thanks again

Bob

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Heidi Ross May 22, 2012 at 9:14 am

It’s an interesting time in ‘Quarry Australia’, Bob. Mining is keeping Government budgets ‘in the black’ and a handful of people are getting rich, but at a terrible cost to the majority. Coal and CSG miners use valuable local regional resources – hospital services, housing etc – so costs rise and local Aussies, not working in the industry, are forced to move. Our dollar has also skyrocketed, directly impacting manufacturing, tourism and interest rates, as our Reserve Bank works to control inflation … so mortgages cost more.
Economist Dr Richard Denniss is fascinating on this issue: ‘Too much of a good thing? The macroeconomic case for slowing down the mining boom’ is the name of his paper (https://www.tai.org.au/index.php?q=node%2F19&pubid=984&act=display).
For the majority of Australians, directly affected, there are hard times, but I’d also like to point out a positive flipside, where the fight against CSG is fostering a sense of empowerment and co-operation. It’s a return to the sense of taking control of our destinies – we shape our lives, not Government. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Northern New South Wales. The people there are declaring their towns and villages ‘CSG-Free’, after 99% of locals sign declarations that they do not want gas. The clip below from the Channon gives me goosebumps every time – it’s heartwarming and inspiring, highlighting how sometimes we need to be faced with a crisis before we react — but when we do, the result has wide-reaching positive impacts across our community …. you may need to watch the clip to understand what I’m harping on about! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Bvx-0DyNsw My region in south-east Queensland is now working to follow this model, which is online for all to use at http://www.csgfreenorthernrivers.org

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BobinOz May 22, 2012 at 8:14 pm

I want to live in a CSG free community too :-)

Heidi, that video gave me goosebumps and more. It is so inspiring I have now added it to the end of my post above in an update.

We don’t have to accept this, and the people of Channon have shown us how we can fight back. Everybody should be inspired by this, and I hope they are.

Thanks again for providing us with so much information.

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Kay May 22, 2012 at 12:24 am

Bob, you should check a documentary called “Gasland”. It’s absolutely scary.

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BobinOz May 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm

I’m already scared enough, but yes, I will check it out. I’ve just watched the trailer, it’s not going to be good news, is it?

Thanks Kay!

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David Thames May 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Four Corners did a documentary about CSG…

http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2011/s3141787.htm

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BobinOz May 30, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Thanks for that David, turns out we can watch it online still by clicking on this link… The Gas Rush.

Look for the video playback to the upper left hand side of the website.

I’m sure it will work for our Australian readers, not sure if it won’t be blocked for anyone else. I haven’t watched it yet myself, but I will.

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BobinOz May 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm

I’ve seen it now; the use of THPS, which can apparently cause chemical pneumonia and death was a bit of a worry.

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Emily May 31, 2012 at 3:15 am

I’m not sure how the government of Brisbane works, but a similar thing happened here in my suburb of Houston, Texas, USA. A chemical company wanted to build a refinery only a mile from the elementary school in my town, but the whole community got together and protested, and eventually, the company backed down. Don’t stop fighting, and keep yourself informed! You could be the man that makes the difference to your whole community.

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BobinOz May 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm

That seems to be the way we are fighting it here now, although unfortunately, in the early days, people were just not aware of exactly how things were going to progress.

As a result, lots of wells have already been established in Queensland because people DID let them in the gate, but today everyone knows better.

I think every community should stand up and fight this everywhere, just as you have in Houston. Thanks Emily!

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Fred May 31, 2012 at 11:01 am

Hi Bob,

I am a frequent reader of your blog and found it extremely useful during the last year, before moving to Australia. Congrats and thanks for that.
I work on a company that provide services for CSG companies so have had some exposure to the topic in the last months. As such, I have some comments regarding the very interesting thread here.

“I would have also thought that irrigating the land with water so that the food we need to eat will grow seems like a healthy use of water. Mixing water with chemicals and sand and blasting away with it deep underground to extract a gas doesn’t seem such a healthy use of water to me, so I don’t think the two can be compared.”

I have to say this is too simplistic for me. Unless it is organic farming the water used for irrigation gets quite contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals in farming areas, and it is drained to the river without any post-treatment process (ie, uncontrolled). This is not healthy at all, and given the high water demands from farming this also generates a big negative impact in the environment. We need food for living but also energy, and the source of water is always the same, so these two things are for me completely comparable.
Regarding the wells being 200m away from houses and methane concentrations and risks of explosion, I would rather prefer having these near my place than living next to a petrol station. It would be definitely less dangerous.
As Martin, I’m not saying that CSG is fantastic or even good. But is most likely the only energy source available at the moment (in terms of quantity, price and timing) able to accompany the projected growth for Australia. So we need to use (otherwise we need to change our whole plans for the future) and then we need to closely control it (that’s the key word, control).
CSG is as negative to the environment as many other human activities (industry, car pollution, etc), but as it is something relatively new it is still quite resisted by the population. It is a highly technical topic with millions of dollars involved and thousands of people depending on it, so lots of reading, discussing and studying is needed before jumping into conclusions.
And again, following Martin’s comments, it may not be the best but it is possibly the only option at the moment. The alternatives (slowing down the economy heading towards recession, loss of employment, etc) are for me also much scarier than snakes.

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Heidi Ross May 31, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Hello Fred,

Like many in rural Australia, I choose not to live beside a petrol station, or a ‘servo’, as the Aussies say — so I fail to see how your comparison legitimises the many gas wells which are being forced on our farmlands and our closely settled areas.
I also feel strongly that just because some parts of industry already contaminate our air, water and soil, it justifies more contamination.
Yes, coal seam gas and shale gas – no doubt headed our way next – are easy options at the moment. But to develop the industry will require billions of dollars and so it will be in place for the next few decades no doubt. When taken on full life cycle, many well regarded studies have shown CSG is not in fact they clean-fuel Government’s would like us to believe.
As such I ask, would it not be better to stay with coal, primarily for domestic use, for a few years longer and put all the money from subsidies, being given to the CSG industry, into developing alternative power sources? Other countries have proven this can be done.
That way, the impact of Australia’s coal use is no more than what it would be if we used CSG for the short term, but at least we retain our farmlands, health and underground water systems and we develop a clean alternative. We also do not impact so severely on our closely settled rural communities and their existing farming and tourism related economies.
Yes, Australia needs money, but at what cost? Most of the CSG and coal — from planned ‘mega’ mines- is for sale overseas, mined often by overseas companies.

I’m sorry, I am not a girl who can justify making lots of money, if in that process I impact heavily on others. I could not sleep at night to do that and I challenge anyone to come to an Australian mining community and not be moved by the plight of those who are suffering because of this so-called boom we have to have. The two-speed economy is sucking the life out of many Australians for the advantage of a few. Growth should not come at such a price.

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BobinOz May 31, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Well said Heidi, much better than I could have dreamt of putting it.

It’s interesting that Fred, along with Martin above, both of whom work in the industry, have tried to compare CSG with other environmentally destructive products in order to try and show CSG in a better light.

It just doesn’t work, does it?

CSG isn’t a clean energy, that’s obvious. We should be pumping our money into solar power and other ‘real’ clean energies as fast as we can and stop this destruction of our land.

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Martin June 4, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Don’t we all want to live in a nice neighbourhood without any disturbances that we have not chosen to be around. But at the same time we all cook on gas/electricity, drive a car, fly to a lovely holiday destination/friends/family, etc.
Don’t think it is fair and desirable to have all industry being located in third world countries where there is less control how this is done. Here in Australia we can actually make sure it gets done properly, both environmentally as in close co-operation with the local population.
And on the subject “sticking with coal”, to further develop the coal mines billions need to be invested as well. And to make it simple: it costs far less money & energy to drill wells and put a pipeline infrastructure down than to dig a hole in the ground of 50km by 2km and more than 150m deep! Once the coal is dug up it needs to be crushed, washed and transported in trains & trucks. However you turn it, coal is the most greenhouse gas intensive fossil fuel (only rivalled by tar sands), which we should replace ASAP.

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BobinOz June 4, 2012 at 9:59 pm

“…make sure it gets done properly”? When, exactly, is that going to start?

Martin, people are very concerned that their land is being taken from them and their water supplies are being destroyed. And you are talking about getting it done properly?

You really are a company man, aren’t you?

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Fred May 31, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Do not fall in the solar trap. Solar panels are still highly inefficient (43% is the highest reported efficiency found in laboratory studies, but the commercial efficiency is still much lower) and then the surface you’d need to cover to replace other mainstream energy sources (such as CSG, nuclear or hydro to mention some) is so massively big that the impact on the environment would be much worse (just imagine square kms with a ceiling of solar panels).
Another problem with solar at the moment is that the process to construct the solar panels is highly contaminant and uses some dangerous metals, so we’d be changing like with like.
With the current technology solar is not yet the answer for massive energy production, and it won’t be for until the next 15 or 20 years. The same applies to wind and waves energy. They are excellent in theory but still not applicable at larger scales. Money needs to be spent in researching in this direction because fossil fuels will eventually disappear, but in the meantime we need something to move the machines.
There is no such clean energy source, that’s the point. All of them have their impacts so we need to carefully calculate them and tightly control the industry.

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Heidi Ross May 31, 2012 at 5:31 pm

You put it so well Fred :
“Money needs to be spent in researching in this direction (solar etc) because fossil fuels will eventually disappear, but in the meantime we need something to move the machines.” …
So let us stay with coal for the interim and put all the money into researching something cleaner, rather than building a whole new CSG industry, which is going to want to run for its full duration … sticking with coal for now will in the long run be cleaner and we will get to the new-technology faster because we have incentive.

One day, no doubt, the science may catch up with CSG, so we can guarantee safe production, KNOWING our water tables are safe from contamination and drawdown. Then perhaps CSG will be appropriate in some places. It will never be appropriate in prime agricultural land (only 3% of Australia), closely settled regions or National Parks.
But for now, even the experts admit, the science just is not there for CSG … only ‘make good’ provisions for when your water supply is f—-d.

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BobinOz May 31, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Fred

Thanks for pointing out the pitfalls of solar, and the shortcomings of some of the other green energies. I find it fascinating that you are so aware of these problems, yet you still maintain that CSG is the way forward for now.

Somehow I can’t help thinking that you are swayed simply because you work in the CSG industry.

Maybe this planet does have an energy crisis, but we should not be jeopardising our water supply to solve it. And maybe we should just keep the energy that we have got in this country for ourselves, rather than selling it abroad?

Heidi, once again, has given a sensible way forward, but as this whole thing seems to be driven by greed and money, it’s almost certainly one that those on the make are going to listen to.

It seems nothing is done for “the people” these days, it’s all for profit.

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Martin June 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm

I belief more in: we are “the people” and we influence what happens to “the people” instead of your last sentence. What I mean with that is, as long as we keep using all this energy there are companies that will produce the energy. Just as with cars, air conditioners, etc. So if you want to stop companies producing energy you have to use less. Australians use more than the average European and much more than the average Asian, while the climate here is more favourable. Lots we can do there, less cars, less lights on (especially in the city offices at night), more solar cells on roofs, etc. Than we make the impact that is required to move over to a more sustainable energy source as soon as possible!

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BobinOz June 4, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Oh, I geddit, it’s our fault! We cut down on our energy use and you’ll stop drilling, right?

Very funny :-)

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Heidi Ross June 5, 2012 at 6:26 am

Hello Martin,
Your words about Australians needing to consume less are valid — but we must not forget most of Australia’s coal and gas is sold overseas. It is predominantly overseas companies involved in this rush to rip resources out of the ground as quickly as possible and flog them off overseas — done with the blessing of our Governments, who are broke, ‘grateful’ and apparently flattered that someone is interested in doing business with Australia.

‘Gee, we’re significant — look, they want to buy our coal’ — and it’s all about growth and appearing a significant economy in the world eyes… so we pull out the stops to try to make it the most attractive coal in the world to buy/dig out.

How? we try to compete on price.

The catch: the people of Australia, who’re standing up and demanding a sustainable approach, which balances mining with safeguards our other resources – food, water, environment -, as well as protects our existing economies of manufacturing and tourism.

What happens: the cost of mining in Australia goes up and the companies cry foul.

Economists at The Australia Institute sum up the situation in the link below, adding it’s easy to fix: “Just like the Reserve Bank increases interest rates to slow the economy when it’s running too hot, the government can ration out mining projects so that the mining boom doesn’t run too hot. Of course, the mining industry is not interested in that solution. It is far easier to complain about the rising cost of doing business, demand the government do something about it, and then just hope nobody notices the hypocrisy.” …. (full article: — http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/4050678.html).

So, while Australia’s State and Federal Government’s fail to act, it is left to the people of rural Australia to make enough noise to makes sure someone notices what is going on — this is how everyday Aussies are now branded ‘activists’.

Such is the threat of Australia’s people-power that our Government has openly instructed ASIO (Australia’s version of the CIA and Britain’s Intelligence Agency) to monitor our activities — so, at each protest we attend, old and young are photographed for our ASIO files .. Interesting times we live in.

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Martin June 5, 2012 at 8:07 am

Hi Heidi,

Fully agree on the pacing of the major projects and I belief even more in investing the money earned from these projects in a sustainable future for the country (instead on short-term pleasing of the voters)! Although Australia has an enormous amount of resources they are not unlimited and we should develop a long term strategy now as it takes a long time to diversify an economy.

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Paul June 2, 2012 at 7:10 am

Hi Bob,
Looks like you’ve started an interesting debate. Fracking is a big worry, and they’ve started here in the UK too. All I would say is you only have to search on RT’s website and youtube for loads of documentary reports on how fracking is poisoning the Americans, who have fracking wells spreading like wild fire across the US. This is thanks to the greed of the corporate organisation Halliburton, who have bulldozed through legislation and regulation to line they’re pockets. That also brings up the nasty debate on lobbying, where large corporations pay off the politicians to get their way, but that’s for another day. Underground water tables are regularly contaminated, this is not good for the environment at all, and should be outlawed.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWMsHW4SMCY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4gWzlpzOMA&feature=results_main&playnext=1&list=PL7884AD25624F4834

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BobinOz June 3, 2012 at 10:01 pm

It’s all very scary stuff, and didn’t Haliburton make enough money out of Iraq? Dick Cheney, what a guy!

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Emily June 4, 2012 at 4:41 pm

It’s hard for me, as a Houstonian, to hate energy companies for using less than desirable methods. After all, the presence of energy companies is the big reason Houston, Texas, has fared so well during this recession. If you work in Houston (which has a better employment rate than much of the rest of the US), there’s a good chance you work for an energy company. I’ll start hating them when the economy turns around.

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BobinOz June 4, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Or you could move, then you could start hating them immediately :-)

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Emily June 5, 2012 at 3:08 am

Wouldn’t that be nice? Haha
Houston is kind of like a trap, though; it’s a lot harder to move out of Houston than to move into Houston since the cost of living here is so low, and our salaries reflect that. This means the money I save here will not go as far elsewhere.

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BobinOz June 5, 2012 at 10:10 pm

All that oil about and low salaries? That doesn’t seem right.

Hope you can plot your escape soon :-)

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Emily June 6, 2012 at 3:46 pm

Actually, the salaries are fantastic for the skills required. They don’t require you to be the cleverest person, and they have to pay you a lot for you to want to do such a dangerous job. At least two major explosions have occurred while I’ve been alive. Lots of people lose their lives doing these jobs.

Sadly, I can’t escape for at least 2 years. I have to finish college before I go anywhere!

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Emily June 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Forgot to add that I meant the salaries reflect the low cost of living in that if you compared the salary of a job and the cost of living in New York and then looked at Houston, both cost of living and salary would have scaled down equally.

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BobinOz June 6, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Thanks for clearing that up Emily, I get it now.

And I think everyone remembers the last major explosion you had down there, way too many lives were lost and it was a huge environmental catastrophe. I suspect you are still paying the price now and will do so in that area for many years to come.

A stark reminder to us all about how “safe” drilling can go tragically wrong.

Now, get back to college :-)

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Poppy B October 22, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Hi Bob
Interesting conversation here……
5 years ago we were approached by a CSG company to put wells on our property. At the time, there was very little support out there for people in our situation – we knew we couldn’t stop it so became dedicated to the notion of true co-existance – we do everything we could to cooperate and make the next 30+ years not only bearable but beneficial for both the company and our family, business and lifestyle.
In hindsight, we were completely WRONG. The past 5 years have been nothing but disappointment and heartache. We have had to fight every step of the way – from appropriate behaviours of CSG personnel on our own property, to rehabilitation works even commencing so that our business could continue, to adequate compensation, to maintenance of CSG equipment – the list just goes on and on…. unfortunately for us, it continues to go on. Try as we might, we just can’t seem to get back onto the mutually beneficial footing we aspired to at the beginning.
Martin – thanks for your comments here – it is good to have balanced views. Despite our experiences, I am not totally against CSG extraction. It is a fantastic and valuable energy source. However, I also think the industry still has much work to do with regards their by-product – highly saline water – and engagement with landholders – both traditional and present day.
I also think I may have met you along the track Martin. I also suspect you work in a tall building getting paid to answer blogs like these – I have read your original comments almost word for word elsewhere.
I also suspect that whilst you do work in the industry, you have probably never been to a property like mine and seen for yourself the absolute chaos and destruction CSG companies can leave in their wake when they are not adequately supervised. If I am right, and you would like to visit, the gate will always be opened by appointment and I will be only too happy to show you around.
I think you might know who I am too, and that’s OK. If you don’t accept my offer, I won’t be offended.

Heidi – keep up the good work! You are doing the landholders in your district proud.

Poppy B.

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Martin October 23, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Hi Poppy,

To start with your last comment, no I do not get paid to answer blogs like this and yes, I do work in Brisbane but visit our operating areas on a regular basis. Furthermore, I do acknowledge that the CSG companies do have a way to go to really co-exist with the current landholders. But during my career I have seen very good examples of true co-existence and I am sure this can be done here as well.
In general, I would say there are a couple of very real issues with CSG (e.g. water & salt production) which need the right attention to get resolved. Therefore a debat with all involved is required.
But having said that, till today I haven’t seen an issue, that I feel, can’t be resolved and the disadvantages of CSG are dwarfed by those of coal. That’s why I believe CSG, with all its new challenges, is worth the investment.

Martin

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Poppy B October 24, 2012 at 9:43 am

Hi Martin
Thanks for your comments. You must be fortunate enough to work with one of the better 2 of the major 4 CSG companies. There appears to be a sizable margin between the behaviours and performance of some companies compared to others. Unfortunately, we deal with a company that is generally known for being the least popular.
Company representatives coming out with comments such as “we have approval, so we will do it whether you like it or not” certainly don’t share our mutual view of finding solutions and reaching co-existance. I try very hard not to get too jaded by these incredibly arrogant people who enter my house and proceed to tell me what they want with little regard to the needs of our business and lifestyle. This industry badly needs good people who share your approach to issues with the view to finding solutions that are suitable for all concerned.

Maybe you can answer this for me? As you agree, the management of the by-product needs more work. So why then is this industry permitted to rapidly expand when there is no real working solutions yet? Millions of litres of water and tonnes of salt are being stockpiled waiting for a solution. I know the industry is working on finding the solution and has some trials going, but I just can’t understand the continued and rapid growth when the answers aren’t fully known. I can’t imagine being permitted to run a farm that way.

Also, if you you have any influence within your company, will you consider flagging these 2 points:
1. Land Access conditions are very important to harmonious coexistance. They need to be taken seriously. Visiting a gas field vs living in one permanently are very different things. When my gate is left open and I have to retrieve cattle from the roadside, I get very angry. It is dangerous for all concerned and a real problem if i happen to be away. However, the company seemed to be of the opinion that all should be OK because we were paid compensation for the wells that they beleive covers this sort of disruption. Throwing some $$$ at people and expecting all will be just fine and dandy is not the right approach. Actually, it’s offensive to think that all landholders want or need is money. Land access conditions are the rules that make continued life on our own land bearable.
2. Time. Why is my time less valuable than anybody else’s? Everyone else in this equation is paid – CSG company person, Govt rep, legal egals, accountant etc. – all except the landholder. Doesn’t seem right, does it?

Poppy.

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Paul April 25, 2013 at 7:47 am

With all that space and lovely sun available, I don’t know why the Australian Government doesn’t just invest in Heliostat Power Stations.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_tower
Then you can give up on Gas and Coal.

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BobinOz April 25, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Seems like a sound idea to me, anything is better than coal seam gas. For it to happen though, federal and state government need to work out how best they can tax it.

If it can raise more money than selling off our natural assets, then it may just stand a chance :-)

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Kylie Kelly July 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I live on a rural property in Northern NSW 10km from the site of a recently drilled csg well and the sight of a 72 day blockade by locals against gas giant Metgasco. If you wish to check out the action youtube ‘glenugie’ local actions such as these are whiteanted by the mainstream media, so if you live in the city you wouldn’t hear about our desperate attempts to keep the gas companies out. You wouldn’t find out that the NSW government brought in the riot squad to literally beat the local landowners into submission. Over 60 arrests were made. I just have one question, where is our democracy? My farm produces silver perch which we send down to Sydney where it is sold to the restaurant market. Our business, our mortgage, our childrens health means nothing to the government. What will city people eat when we can no longer produce the food for their tables? We are now entering a new age of renewable energy. We have the capability to build solar thermal plants to provide baseload renewable power it is unneccesary to go down the csg road the outcome of which can only be described as ‘ecocide’. There are no jobs on a dead planet. Csg puts profits before people it is a dirty industry fuelled by greed.

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BobinOz July 6, 2013 at 1:18 am

Governments and big business, not just here in Australia but worldwide, are quite happy to suck this planet dry in return for taxes and big profits.

You don’t really count to them, but you do to us and I hope you keep fighting. Silver perch will probably come from China when you can no longer supply, and it’ll be taxed as an import.

Ecocide, exactly.

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