A new code of practice covering safety and environmental standards for coal seam gas (CSG) projects in Queensland will apply from January 2012.
The new standards, which follow growing concerns about the impact of CSG on agriculture and criticism about the issuing of some CSG permits, are designed to ensure “the highest environmental and safety standards of coal seam gas wells over their lifetime and beyond” the Queensland government says.
The new code sets out acceptable standards required to ensure long-term well integrity, containment of gas and protection of groundwater resources.
Minister for Employment, Skills and Mining Stirling Hinchliffe says that the code “sends a positive message to industry and gas communities in Queensland”.
“It will ensure drilling activities are carried out in a consistent manner and that the life of a well is managed effectively from start to finish through appropriate design and construction techniques” he said.
The code stipulates mandatory practices for well design and construction to withstand production zone pressures, routing well maintenance and ground movement throughout the life of the well. It also lists safety factors and installation of casing types, in particular the minimum vertical depth of casing from the surface, and the requirements to ensure groundwater aquifers are isolated through correct cementing techniques.
It outlines mandatory requirements for cementing of wells, including pressure testing, sampling, setting times and minimum wall separation distances for cement to flow and return to the surface to ensure the well is sealed.
The new standards follow growing criticism about the CSG approval process and community concern about the long term impact of CSG wells on agriculture and the environment. An all parliamentary senate committee on rural affairs and transport recommended that all new CSG developments in areas that overlay the Great Artesian Basin be put on hold until further scientific studies are completed.
Farmers, in particular, are becoming increasingly vocal. In October, about 100 farmers barricaded a property to prevent drilling in North Western New South Wales. And earlier this month, about 20 farmers gathered in protest at a property near Gloucester, north of Newcastle.