The Risks Associated With Coal Seam Gas

Exploration and production of coal seam gas has sparked growing concerns about water security, health, food security, and environmental risks. CSG industry has grown exponentially over the past decade in Australia. This growth is attributed to the growing demand for gas fuel as a transition from using fossil fuels. At the moment over 80 percent of Australia reserves are coal seam gas and a third of natural gas comes from coal seams.

Coal seam gas is a natural gas that is exported as liquefied natural gas. But there is controversy surrounding gases emission. The concerns arise from the potential adverse environmental effects of CSG gas industry. Consequently, governments have established laws and regulations to regulate exploration and production.

Compared to Coal, SCG gas is a solution to refrain from using fossil fuel and embrace renewable energy. Using CSG in electricity generation slashes C02 emission up to 70 percent in comparison to coal. There are numerous pros and cons of Coal seam gas. In this article we’ll explore the CSG risks.

Water Risk

Coal seam gas production requires extraction of a large amount of water to allow the gas to flow to the surface. Additionally, the water is too salty for agricultural use. Therefore, CSG is a threat to water catchments. This problem is much bigger in the developed world where the production of coal seam water is much advanced.

Another problem is aquifer contamination from CSG water. This can lead to CSG erupting from farming bores used for domestic use and irrigation. Worse still, air and CSG gas mixture can be explosive.

The process of CSG production involves pumping a mixture of sand chemicals and water under high pressure. This forms cracks through which the gas comes to the surface. The water contains huge amounts of chemicals, salts, and methane gas. These substances could have adversely effects on the environment.

Exploration and production of coal seam gas have resulted in two competing priority. While there is a need to increase the natural resource base, it is equally important to have a sustainable supply of underground water for irrigation and household use. The bottom line is that production of CSG may cause negative impact on the groundwater supply.

Health

Workers in coal seam gas production handle chemicals, sometimes in a concentrated amount, during water coal seam production process. Consequently, they risk skin contact and breathing chemical vapor or dust when transporting, handling, or storing the chemicals. Industrial accidents could even be worse.

It is the government responsibility to prevent air, water and food contamination. In some countries like France and South Africa, the government has banned mining of shale gas. This is because the chemical used during the drilling fracturing process and natural contaminants from the seams pose a risk to CSG workers health. With sufficient exposure and pose, the chemical could cause grave effects such as cancer.

Food security

Drilling process for coal seam gas is a potential threat to food security. The production of this carbon-intensive gas puts arable land into the risk of degradation.  Most of the CSG product occurs on land suitable for agriculture. As a result, community members have raised concern over the loss of agricultural land to CSG production while the industry wants the restriction on access to these lands minimized. CSG mining takes a massive size of land for access roads, underground pipes and gas wells.

CSG wells in the farming field disrupt water flow causing farmers great problem. The roads are also a great cause of soil erosion. While a single incident wipes top fertile soil, it may take eons to restore fertility for agricultural production. Some of the best agricultural land in Australia is on the verge of destruction. This puts food production at stake.

Environment

CSG gas primarily consists of methane. Emission of methane to the environment can potentially cause climate change.

Conclusion

Food quality and security is the backbone of good health. Using arable land and diverting water from agricultural use could cause adverse effects, including health issues. CSG mining can also divide communities that have enjoyed a warm bond for years and hence bring tension and disharmony. Consequently worse it would disrupt the local economy such as tourism.  However, we can’t disregard the benefits of coal seam gas, especially on the economy. We should, therefore, find a compromise so that we can benefit from CSG mining without putting our lives at stake.