A THREE year study by the CSIRO into fracking, a hydraulic method of releasing gas from coal seam beds, shows is has little to no impacts on air quality, soils, groundwater and waterways.
According to CSIRO'S Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance, the study also found current water treatment technology used for treating water produced from coal seam gas wells was effective in removing hydraulic fracturing chemicals and naturally occurring chemicals to within relevant water quality guidelines.
The study analysed air, water and soil samples taken before, during and up to six months after hydraulic fracturing operations at six coal seam gas wells in the 270,000 square kilometre Surat Basin.
GISERA director Damian Barrett said the independent study was developed in response to community concerns about the potential for chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations to affect air quality, soils and water resources.
"This new research provides valuable data about hydraulic fracturing in coal seam gas formations in the Surat Basin, Queensland," Dr Barrett said.
"Previously, the only information about hydraulic fracturing was from overseas studies in quite different shale gas formations.
"Clearly governance, industry regulation and operational integrity are crucial in managing risk and potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing."
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the study was clear evidence to policy-makers that gas reserves were being developed sustainably and successfully for Queensland.
"There is no credible scientific or environmental reason to constrain the further development of these reserves," Mr Macfarlane said.
"The study vindicates the bi-partisan support for the Queensland LNG industry over more than a decade."
Results from the study showed:
- There was no significant variation between air quality at fracking sites and control sites where no hydraulic fracturing activities occurred.
- Levels of most atmospheric air pollutants were generally below relevant national air quality objectives. Increased levels of airborne particles were associated with dust from vehicle movement.
- Fracking chemicals were not detected in water samples taken from nearby groundwater bores, soil samples from sites adjacent to operational wells, or in water samples from a nearby creek.
- Water produced from the wells immediately after fracking contained hydraulic fracturing chemicals, elevated concentrations of major ions (salts), ammonia, organic carbon, some metals and organic compounds, with concentrations reducing to a pre-fractured state within 40 days.
- Current water treatment operations were effective in removing fracking chemicals and geogenic chemicals either completely or reducing levels to within acceptable limits according to water quality guidelines.
- Some types of biocides used in hydraulic fracturing fluids and some geogenic chemicals were completely degraded in soil samples within two to three days.
However, protest group Lock the Gate Alliance criticised the study for only looking at only six of the thousands of CSG wells across Queensland.
Lock the Gate national coordinator Naomi Hogan said despite the report, farmers' fears were grounded in evidence.
"Having gas industry-funded reports that only investigate a relatively tiny number of wells will do nothing to reassure them," Ms Hogan said.
"It is deeply disappointing that the good name of CSIRO continues to be sullied by the gas industry through its funding of GISERA.
"Let's be clear, GISERA is not an independent scientific body. Rather it is overseen by a collection of fracking executives who want to see gas wells pierce the country like a pin cushion."
According to its website, GISERA is dedicated to researching the impacts of Australia's onshore gas industry. It is a collaboration between CSIRO, Commonwealth and state governments and industry established to undertake publicly reported independent research.
In 2018-19, the oil and gas industry provided an $8 billion injection to the Queensland economy and supported almost 40,000 jobs.
- courtesy of Queensland Country Life.