Water Journal : Water Journal August 2013
WATER AUGUST 2013 46 Conference Report UNCONVENTIONAL GAS THOUGHT LEADERSHIP SERIES Grant Leslie, AWA National Policy and Programs Manager, reports on the recent series of AWA Unconventional Gas Thought Leadership Seminars. During June, the Australian Water Association (AWA), in conjunction with the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, presented a series of thought leadership seminars on unconventional gas. The purpose of these seminars was to bring together a number of world experts in the science of unconventional gas production and to highlight some of the issues. The seminars were held in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Canberra and were well attended. They provided a national and international perspective on unconventional gases including coal seam gas (also known as coal bed methane), tight gas and shale gas. Collectively these gases, along with conventional gas, are processed to create Lique ed Natural Gas, or LNG, as it is commonly known and used in Australia. The presenters were some of the most experienced professionals and academics in the eld. Professor Peter Flood and Dr Ian Duncan presented at all four seminars, with other speakers added to the program at each location to provide the local context. In Perth, Jeff Haworth from the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum presented, while in Melbourne Chris McCauley from the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment and Dr Vaughan Beck, from the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering took the stage. In Adelaide, Professor Craig Simmons from the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, Neil Power from the SA Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, and Professor Robert Clark from ACOLA presented. In Canberra, Professor Peter Cook from ALCOA, and Dr Peter Baker from the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, People and Communities provided a national context. Emeritus Professor Peter Flood was the chair of all four seminars. Professor Flood is a retired Deputy Vice Chancellor from the University of New England. He is a geologist with 44 years' experience in Basin Studies, including within the Gunnedah, Bowen and Surat Basins, and a member of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. He has been a consultant to State and Commonwealth Governments and the mining and oil/gas industry, and has studied the impacts of mining and coal seam gas extraction on water resources. Professor Flood was appointed to the Interim Committee to advise the Federal Government on coal seam and large coal mining in January 2012. Dr Ian Duncan is a Research Scientist at the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas in Austin. Dr Duncan's recent research has focused on the scienti c, environmental and public policy aspects of unconventional natural gas production, and he has presented on these topics and others at the Atlantic Council. Dr Duncan has also been exploring the implications for effective regulatory frameworks of recent US environmental impacts associated with unconventional gas production. Dr Duncan is interested in the similarities and contrasts between US experiences with shale gas and Australian experiences with coal seam gas. Dr Duncan discussed some of the more controversial issues of the environmental and health impacts of shale gas development. Shale gas is extracted from as deep as 3000m below the surface and was rst extracted in the 1800s in America. However, it was not commercially produced until the 1970s. In Australia, shale gas is currently uneconomical to produce, although vast reserves have been identi ed (see Figure 1). Dr Duncan identi ed four key questions that formed the basis of his presentation: • Is water consumption for hydraulic fracturing a problem? • Has hydraulic fracturing contaminated drinking water? • Has shale gas production led to dangerous levels of atmospheric emissions? • Are there any documented exposure pathways that could result in negative health impacts? A more general proposition was offered to the audience, which was: Are the risks associated with shale gas acceptable? Dr Duncan de ned sustainable as: If years after the activity is over there is no signi cant evidence that it took place, then the activity was sustainable. He explained that the amount of water consumed per well depends on the geology of the shale, the number of fracturing stages and the amount of water that ows back to the surface (estimated to be between 20--80 per cent). So there is no perfect answer here. In fact, it could be less intrusive than other extractive industries. It all depends on the geology. Dr Duncan cited the most famous example implying contaminated drinking water as a result of hydraulic fracturing in a lm called Gasland (see Dr Duncan's My Point Of View article, page 4, for more information). In this lm a woman was able to light on re water running from a tap. Dr Duncan advised that in this case methane had in fact been naturally bubbling through the aquifer from where the water was drawn for over 30 years, so what had occurred was no real surprise. Addressing the issue of atmospheric contamination, Dr Duncan presented a number of case studies on the emissions of gas processing plants at nine locations in Texas. The evidence indicated that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) long- term average for concentrations of Benzene, Toluene, o-xylene and CREDIT: GEOSCIENCE AUSTRALIA WA NT SA QLD NSW VIC TAS SYDNEY BASIN OTWAY BASIN CANNING BASIN ARCKARINGA BASIN COOPER BASIN WARBURTON BASIN WISO BASIN GEORGINA BASIN SURAT BASIN CLARENCE- MORETON BASIN MARYBOROUGH BASIN ADAVALE BASIN GALILEE BASIN BEETALOO SUB-BASIN PERTH SYDNEY DARWIN HOBART ADELAIDE BRISBANE CANBERRA, ACT MELBOURNE PERTH BASIN AMADEUS BASIN McARTHUR BASIN BOWEN BASIN GUNNEDAH BASIN BONAPARTE BASIN SOUTHERN CARNARVON BASIN 140° 130° 120° 150° 10° 20° 30° 40° 0 750 km AERA 3.22 The map is intended as a schematic depiction of the location of sedimentary basins with predicted potential for shale oil or gas based on their gross geological characteristics. Many basins highlighted do not have proven potential for shale oil or gas, and not all of the highlighted areas are necessarily prospective. Shale oil or gas may also occur outside of the highlighted areas. Shale liquids and tight oil potential CSG basins Potential shale oil/gas basins Gas pipeline Gas pipeline (proposed) Figure 1. Location of potential shale gas reserves in Australia.
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