Fluids used to extract coal seam gas (CSG) are unlikely to contaminate aquifers and underground water stores, a Queensland parliamentary committee has heard.
The statement comes despite previous acknowledgements by the CSG industry that coal seam gas operations would inevitably impact groundwater.
Environmental groups have long feared that aquifers near coal seam gas wells could be contaminated by chemicals used in ‘fracking’, the extraction process by which a mixture of sand, water and chemicals are pumped underground to force coal seams apart, allowing gas to be extracted.
Dennis Bird of the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning says any material impact is unlikely because the chemicals used for fracking are used in small quantities.
“If you use a huge amount of it, then it obviously has some impact,” Bird told the committee on Wednesday, according to a report on Australian Associated Press (AAP). “But the chemicals are used in such small quantities there is hardly likely to be any impact (in terms of contamination).”
Bird’s statements contradict earlier admissions from the coal seam gas industry itself that some form of impact upon aquifers from coal seam gas operations was ‘inevitable’.
Last August, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association spokesman Ross Dunn told a public meeting in Sydney that good management could minimise the risks of water contamination but not eliminate them.
”Drilling will, to varying degrees, impact on adjoining aquifers,” Dunn told that meeting. ”The extent of impact and whether the impact can be managed is the question’.’
Bird, who was bought in to brief new members of the state development, infrastructure and industry committee, also told the committee that CSG offered new commercial opportunities to deal with waste and salt brine.
Companies interested in processing the salt have made approaches, Bird says, but currently, changes were needed to the Gas and Petroleum Act in order for this to happen.