There are a lot of misconceptions and mistruths about the natural gas industry in Australia, so we have corrected some of the more commons ones below. If you have another question – or yours isn’t answered below – please send us an email and we will get back to you with more information.
Lighting taps: If natural gas and fracking are safe, how can people light water taps?
The ‘flaming taps’ footage was highlighted through a documentary called Gasland – but the issue was in fact investigated before Gasland was released.
The Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission found that: “Dissolved methane in well water appears to be biogenic [naturally occurring] in origin. There are no indications of oil & gas related impacts to water well.”
In relation to the Condamine, a report supervised by Queensland University of Technology Professor Malcolm Cox and published in the journal Nature found no evidence of gas migrating from the deep coal seams, and the shallow alluvium in the area (including beneath the river).
The report states:
- “Evidence of CH4 (methane) migration from the deep gas reservoir to the shallow coal measures (<200 metres) or the alluvium was not observed,”
- “There is no evidence of leakage from the deeper gas reservoir to overlying shallow zones in the coal measures.”
Earthquakes: Does fracking cause earthquakes?
No. There’s a widely held belief that some of the processes used in the exploration and production of natural gas can cause earthquakes.
It’s a claim that causes unnecessary alarm among local communities. The concept of induced seismicity has been extensively examined and studied in the United States and the United Kingdom – and the bottom line is that hydraulic fracturing does not pose a major risk of causing earthquakes.
The Australian Council of Learned Academics noted in a report that “in Australia, there have been no reported incidents of induced seismicity associated with hydraulic fracturing, either in coal seam gas or tight gas operations.”
Hydraulic fracturing: Does fracking fluid inject BTEX chemicals into the ground?
BTEX chemicals (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene) can occur naturally in water sources and are also found in commonly used machinery products like oil or petrol. In some instances, trace levels of these chemicals may be detected at a fracked site, even where they have not been used.
BTEX standards apply to all new and existing petroleum, geothermal and greenhouse gas storage operations as a condition of their environmental authority.
In Australia, BTEX chemicals cannot be used in fracking fluids.
Hydraulic fracturing: Is the composition of fracking fluids a secret?
No. In Australia, it is mandatory for operators to release a full list of the chemical compounds used during drilling and fracking operations.
While the exact nature of the fracking mixtures used by companies will vary due to the different geological environments, the core components are very similar.
Hydraulic fracturing: Is fracking only used for oil and gas development?
No, it isn’t. In fact, over the past 60 years, hydraulic fracturing has been used for a wide variety of purposes, from stimulating the flow of water from water wells, to bringing geothermal wells into commercial viability.
Methane: Is natural gas development increasing the level of methane entering the atmosphere?
The evidence in the United States is showing a decrease in methane emissions associated with the exploration and production of natural gas petroleum products – 16% in total between 1990 and 2015, which is not an insignificant change.
As identified in several scientific, evidence based reports, including from the CSIRO, methane is attributable to a number of industries and natural sources, including agriculture.
And while the natural gas industry is a factor, its contribution is showing a decline as we move away from coal-powered sources of electricity generation.
Coexistence: Is the gas industry ruining productive agricultural land?
The gas industry is strongly committed to working with landholders to manage and minimise the impact of activity on agricultural land. In Queensland, agricultural land is protected under environmental and regional planning legislation. According to the Queensland Government:
One of the purposes of the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 is to manage the impacts of resource activities on areas of regional interest and to manage the coexistence of these resource activities and other regulated activities with highly productive agricultural activities.
An area of regional interest defined under the Act is called a strategic cropping area. This is an area containing strategic cropping land that is highly suitable for cropping because of a combination of the land’s soil, climate and landscape features.
A priority agricultural area is an area of regionally significant agricultural production that is identified in a regional plan.
The purpose of identifying priority agricultural areas and strategic cropping areas is to ensure that resource activities in these areas do not hinder agricultural operations. They must not result in a material impact on a priority agricultural land use.