1. Dr Gavin Mudd, Monash University
2. Mr Dave Campin, Department of environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland
Coal Seam Gas and the Environment: Why is So Much Hot Air Bubbling to the Surface?
The tapping of coal seams to extract gas - or coal seam gas (CSG) - has emerged as a major potential new energy resource over the past decade, led primarily by Queensland with other states racing to try and catch up to the argued benefits. However, while there is little doubt of a substantive CSG energy resource, there is significant doubt as to the environmental credentials of CSG. Over the past few years community opposition to CSG has become widespread throughout Australia - led especially by growing concerns over the perceived and actual impacts on rural communities and farmers in southern Queensland around the Chinchill-Tara-Dalby region. So why is CSG so controversial that it has arguably generated Australia's most widespread community campaign since the Vietnam war era? The key concerns regarding CSG include impacts on groundwater quantity and quality, air pollution issues, public health and greenhouse gas emissions. This talk will present both a technical and community view of the environmental issues at stake, providing a unique and clear insight into the grand CSG debate - and will hopefully help people make up their own hearts and minds on this controversial energy resource.
Dr Gavin Mudd is a Senior Lecturer and Course Director for Environmental Engineering at Monash University in Clayton. As an Environmental Engineer from RMIT in 1995, he has worked on the environmental impacts from mining ever since - starting with his PhD on the impacts of coal ash on groundwater in the Latrobe Valley through Victoria University, a variety of research and consulting work, but especially a broad ranging involvement with many community and indigenous groups concerned with the impacts of mining - especially uranium but also coal, gold, copper, nickel and others - and now more recently coal seam gas. Working across the full spectrum of mining issues related to the environment and the communities which live next door or use the products, he has developed a unique and innovative approach to researching, understanding and communicating the complexities of a classic oxymoron - that of "sustainable mining" !
Coal seam gas is one of a number of petroleum materials collectively called unconventional resources. It is characterised by a need for a large number of extraction wells and significant surface conveyance and treatment infrastructure scattered over many thousands of hectares. Water and salt management are two of the most significant issues but there are a number of other aspects requiring attention in order to ensure social licence. The rapid development of the sector and significant economic impact has been quite profound within an otherwise quiet broad-acre farming area. The development of CSG in Queensland has coincided with major development in shale gas fields in the US, notably the Marcellus, Eagleford and Bakken Basins. Environmental impacts in the US both real and perceived have influenced the debate here and provided fertile grounds for gas oppositions groups. Hydraulic fracturing has been labelled with various impacts but focused regulatory control building upon detailed impact assessment can reduce risks of adverse outcomes to negligible levels. Groundwater drawdown impacts will probably be the most contentious and long lasting effect of the sector but recent changes to well licensing and ownership transfer may offer landholders long term recompense.
Dave Campin is an agricultural engineer and fresh water ecologist with over forty years experience in environmental management. He commenced work with world-scale pulp, paper and forestry operations in New Zealand and Australia. He formed his own consulting business in Melbourne before heading up the environmental and water engineering sector of a major consulting firm in Brisbane. In 2001 he joined the Environmental Protection Agency in Queensland and has been involved in policy, planning, regulatory development and compliance. He has published (authored and co-authored) a number of peer reviewed papers including: design considerations for kraft pulp recovery pollution control plant; persistent organochlorine contaminant transfer and fate; dioxin characterisation and source attribution; fish pathology; and the use of freshwater ecological indicators in town planning. In 2007 he was awarded the Minister’s Excellence Award for Innovation and Improvement for the development of a novel environmental risk system that underpins environment protection regulation and compliance strategies in the Agency and has been adopted by a number of other States. He has travelled extensively and in recent years he has worked with the UK Environment Agency in England and, in 2010, spent six months working with the Engineering and Assessment Branch, Office of Water, US EPA, in Washington DC, as a result of winning a prestigious Queensland International Fellowship. His focus was to gain in-depth understanding of water management practices and regulatory frameworks in the coalbed methane and shale gas sectors across the US. He has a long standing interest in process safety and has been active in complex compliance audits of major industrial operations. He developed brine and aquifer injection guidelines for CSG water management and is currently developing a major review of hydraulic fracturing regulation in Queensland. He is currently the chief technical advisor for energy environmental policy and regulation in Queensland.