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Issue 8 | December 2017
Dr David Freudenberger, Queensland Regional Research Advisory Committee member at the GISERA symposium October 2017
Message from the Director
Understanding the role of onshore gas, as Australia transitions from a reliance on coal to renewables, remains an important element of the energy debate.

Likewise, CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Gas Industry Alliance (GISERA) plays a vital role in injecting science into decision making around future energy options.

For more than five years GISERA has been strengthening Australia’s scientific knowledge of the challenges and opportunities of the onshore gas industry, providing independent science for communities living in gas development regions, for the governments overseeing them, and industries looking to invest in them.

In the past six months alone, the Alliance has been sharing new research into potential gas industry development in New South Wales through a range of briefings in Sydney and regional NSW. A series of projects based around the proposed Narrabri Gas Project in the state’s northwest is providing scientific evidence to better understand potential impacts to the local community if coal seam gas development were to proceed.

Baseline information on methane emissions and community wellbeing allow for scientifically-robust comparisons in the event that the industry proceeds. As well, the interim results of a groundwater modelling study in the region has provided an independent estimate of the range in potential maximum impacts on water volumes of the Great Artesian Basin aquifer, the Pilliga Sandstone, under a generalised development scenario.

These are just some of the nine GISERA projects which currently focus on New South Wales. This research, along with research outcomes from Queensland's Surat Basin, was the focus of the annual GISERA symposium in Brisbane in October. More than 50 people attended the presentation of completed research addressing the social and environmental impacts and opportunities arising from onshore gas development. As well invited speakers provided perspectives from government, industry and academia. Speakers included Dr David Freudenberger (pictured above), a member of the Queensland Regional Research Advisory Committee.

The Alliance's inaugural Stakeholder Roundtable Group meeting was held in Sydney on Monday November 13, 2017. The roundtable gathers perspectives to help CSIRO identify how GISERA can better serve stakeholders.

The meeting provided stakeholder representatives from diverse backgrounds with an opportunity to express their views on what they perceived was working well, issues and areas of concern, and perspectives for improvement and GISERA’s future focus. We look forward to the next meeting in April 2018.

The new year also promises to yield outcomes in a range of ongoing research, including the release of a health study framework, due for release in 2018.

We look forward to sharing these stories and more in the coming year. As always, your feedback is appreciated. Don't hesitate to contact us at

Cheers, Dr Damian Barrett, GISERA Director, and Director of CSIRO's Onshore Gas program.

Shop front in Narrabri
Social and economic

CSIRO has provided insights into the wellbeing and resilience of a regional NSW community which is facing a potential gas development in its region through the Social baseline assessment of the Narrabri region of NSW in relation to CSG development project.

Researchers surveyed 400 residents to develop baseline measurements of community wellbeing, resilience and adaptation for the Narrabri shire, and expected future wellbeing if the proposed Narrabri Gas Project, now before the New South Wales Government, were to proceed.

Lead author Dr Andrea Walton said results showed overall the community wellbeing was robust; with community spirit and personal safety being rated highest. The research also measured and documented local attitudes and perceptions of coal seam gas (CSG) development and the CSG sector through the survey undertaken between March and April, 2017 in the shire in north western NSW.

The resulting report, “Social baseline assessment of the Narrabri region of New South Wales in relation to CSG development”, used a quantitative survey approach, combined with statistical modelling, to provide a robust and comprehensive understanding of community attitudes and perceptions in relation to coal seam gas development in the region.

This research found that 30 per cent of the population indicated they reject the notion of CSG development in the shire. At the other end of the spectrum 15 per cent of residents indicated they ‘embrace’ it, while the remaining 55 per cent of respondents indicated they would either tolerate (27%), be ok with (15%), or approve of (13%) CSG development in the shire.

Understanding community sentiment toward such proposals, measuring community resilience, and identifying strategic actions to address potential problems, can all help communities facing potential changes.

Meanwhile, the Analysing economic and demographic trajectories in NSW regions experiencing CSG development and operations project has undertaken research to understand the way regional NSW economies change in regions establishing gas industry compared to regions without CSG wells, between 2001 and 2011. The study found that CSG regions had an average of 6.47% and 6.31% higher median personal and family income than regions without CSG development.

The estimated income effect is independent of the influence of other factors associated with changes in rural income patterns, such as changes in agricultural profitability, differences in human capital productivity, and changes in the prices of minerals.

Origin treated water injection point
Surface and groundwater

A project investigating the Impacts of CSG depressurisation on the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) flux has released an interim report analysing potential changes in groundwater flows in the Pilliga Sandstone, an aquifer of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB).

The aquifer, in the Narrabri region of NSW, is a fresh water source for irrigation, stock and domestic uses and the overlying Pilliga forest is a recharge area for the aquifer.

The project uses probabilistic groundwater models to understand how coal seam gas (CSG) development is likely to change the amount of groundwater that flows into and from the Pilliga Sandstone aquifer.

The interim results indicated that, over the wide range of possibilities, the CSG-induced water loss from the Pilliga Sandstone ranged between 0.28 and 2,299 mega litres per year. While water is not directly taken from the GAB aquifers, CSG development may potentially generate a flow of water from the Pilliga Sandstone. This movement is due to the depressurization of coal seams over a period of many years, leading to water flowing from the GAB into deeper formations. This is considered CSG-induced water loss and the GISERA study quantified the CSG-induced potential maximum annual water losses.

The research follows community concern that depressurisation of coal seams for producing gas may potentially impact groundwater pressure in the Pilliga Sandstone aquifer and affect the quantity of water recharge into the broader GAB. A final report for the study is due in mid 2018.

Meanwhile, a review for the Spatial design of groundwater monitoring network in the Narrabri Gas Project area has also been released. This research provides an overview of groundwater monitoring requirements in CSG development areas and existing groundwater monitoring in the Narrabri Gas Project area. It also evaluates the opportunity for analysis and optimal design of a monitoring network.

Follow our research progress online

As part of GISERA's role in providing trusted information about the challenges and opportunities associated with onshore gas industries, all project progress and reports are publicly available and published on the GISERA website:

Keep up to date with our research by accessing the project pages through the Research tab at the top of our site. Under each research area you will find information and milestone reports for each project as they become available.

A research progress infographic, available at the button below, provides a good overview of research progress across the Alliance.

You can also review a snap shot of each project on our Research summary brochure.

A range of animations are also available for access, under our More Information tab, and on our social research exploring economic assessment and forecasting in the Surat Basin, Queensland.

Wheat field.
Agricultural land management

A journal article on land use change has been released from GISERA's Shared space project.

Released in June, the journal article explores farmers' perceptions of some of the issues arising from large scale land use change. This includes the importance of place identity and landscape aesthetics for farmers, farmers' acceptance and coping with change, and possible benefits from off-farm income.

Clouds at sunset
What's in the air?
A study to identify and quantify the major sources of background methane emissions in the Narrabri region of NSW has provided a detailed baseline understanding of the human-induced and naturally occurring methane emission sources in the area of potential gas development. The work contributes to the development of more accurate budgets of the different sources of methane to better inform decision making, including global and national greenhouse accounting.
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