Coal Seam Gas and Fracking - lets not get hysterical

One thing I always oppose is a monopoly on power and wealth, but when it comes to science/ engineering/ resources and technology I will always advocate to avoid taking on the extreme positions. An example is genetic modification or nuclear power - as technologies they are neither right or wrong, their uses need to be argued in terms of context, value to the community and what problems they solve. because of this, I take a pragmatic stand against GM foods and nuclear technology, the former solves nothing, but has become a tool for big companies to gain power over food resources, the latter is relatively safe, but expensive compared to better solutions.

Taking this approach to Coal-seam gas and fracking, I see them as potential resources. Coal seam gas can produce economically viable energy, but it won't keep gas prices down for consumers. Shale gas is very expensive, and is generally non-economical unless being produced as a by-product of oil from fracked shale. Coal seam gas will not solve many problems, but will make money for some companies and their shareholders - its only value to the community will be in jobs, royalty payments and lease agreements. The drilling processes will temporarily scar the landscape and there is an unknown risk to the water table.

It is quite clear the current moratorium in Victoria will be lifted and coal seam gas exploration will go ahead. There is little to argue against it from a consistency point of view, it is probably no more harmful than drilling for gas in porous reservoirs as currently practised in the Otway basin, the only difference being the fracturing done to the coal seam.
I myself have worked as a logging geologist on many exploration oil and gas wells, this includes some coal seam gas wells in Queensland. At the time, I never noticed anything strange about Coal seam gas exploration that was different to other exploration wells, except that the wells were very shallow - about 200-300 metres deap compared to the usual 2000m deep wells in the Otway basin. Also, that wells were being drilled extremely close to where previous wells were being developed - maybe only 500 metres apart. This is the feature of these coal-seam wells, they are shallow and close together. being shallow, they are cheap to drill, but they most likely have short-lives like shale-gas wells, so overall they are intensive and do not produce as much per energy and capital investment as porous reservoir wells.

Beyond this, I believe the community needs to grudgingly accept that while we use gas for domestic uses, then we need to get it from somewhere, but the ground-rules need to be established. Companies that explore, drill and fracture the ground beneath out feet need to take on full responsibility for what they do. We need to monitor water quality before and after, we need full disclosure of any chemicals used, and we need communities to have negotiation rights for how they will compensated for the use of their land. We need to know that landholders and local towns will enjoy benefits if there is wealth to be found, and will not be abandoned if some adverse long-term effects do arise.

I do not see coal seam gas as a solution to our energy crisis, it offers little prospect of energy security, and may be doing more harm to the climate through methane escape, however, we need to proceed cautiously and find out for sure, and this can only happen by proceeding with strict controls. It would be great to just down-tools in the hydrocarbon industry and completely change to renewables, but this won't happen, so it is best to play for the best compromise possible in the mean time.

Make A Comment
Your Firstname
Your Surname
Your Email Address (will not be displayed)
Your Comment
Security Code
Enter Security Code (above)