Australia is undergoing a serious energy security, availability, affordability debate in parallel with a climate impacts debate. Gas is touted as a transition fuel between coal and renewables and is a logical base-load partner to renewables. Exploitation of unconventional gas (CSG, shale and tight) is undergoing rapid growth in Australia. Carbon capture and storage is already playing a role in energy emissions reductions and is likely to grow, particularly in niche situations (CO2 in natural gas). Coal mining is under pressure to reduce large methane emissions during mining. As well as greenhouse gas impacts (mostly through methane), air quality is also relevant to these activities, through direct emissions of gases and particles associated with the reservoir and mining activities, through coal fires .Emissions from all these activities must be detected, quantified and reduced. In addition, there is significant community concern and media attention regarding air quality and health impacts of CSG production and coal gasification.
The ACC Group has carried out a number of studies investigating fugitive emissions and air quality impacts of CSG activity, including hydraulic fracturing, in the Surat Basin of Queensland. In one study air quality data were made available in real time to ensure complete transparency to communities, industry and government. In another study methane emissions across a large region of the Surat Basin were inferred using forward and inverse modelling of two years of methane observations from two locations in the Surat Basin.
Links to the GISERA projects in which the ACC group has been involved are provided below:
- Methane seepage
- Ambient Air Quality in the Surat Basin
- Air, water and soil impacts of hydraulic fracturing
- Health Impacts
The community trust gained from CSIRO’s involvement provides industry with a social license to operate in these communities. This is crucial for industry who are reliant on co-operation with landholders and communities for access to private land to extract the gas. CSIRO has a unique role to play as this industry continues to develop, as the only organisation in Australia able to fill the role of both trusted community and industry advisor.