Sharing CSIRO’s science to inform and create impact is key for the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance.
The past six months has been a showcase of sharing science, with our research on show to almost 2,000 industry and government stakeholders at the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA) conference, our work shared with an estimated 331,000 TV viewers on the SBS Insight program, and GISERA’s researchers talking with up to 100 farmers at the Chinchilla show in Queensland’s Western Downs.
GISERA’s efforts so far this year have included the establishment of a new research focus in South Australia’s South East, and continued delivery of great science in Queensland and New South Wales.
Potential impacts of onshore gas on water, air quality, human health, and the social fabric of communities continue to be the key focus. This issue we share our latest research on matters of interest, including ambient air quality research in the Surat Basin, building on our work to understand the potential health impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) development, and how to design better groundwater monitoring networks to account for CSG impacts.
We’ve also released new videos to provide a new overview of Alliance research, and showcased our research into the air, water and soil impacts of hydraulic fracturing. We’ve also developed a new brochure for our updated research portfolio.
Defining the impact from our science remains a priority for GISERA, as we continue to provide science to support decision making, build capacity, and thought leadership across Australia.
Regards, Damian Barrett, GISERA Director
An assessment of air quality measurements taken in the Surat Basin region in Queensland has found that measured pollutants were mostly well below the relevant air quality guidelines.
The results of Dr Sarah Lawson’s work have been published in an interim report for GISERA’s Ambient air quality in the Surat Basin project. The project involves a comprehensive assessment of air quality in the Surat Basin using air quality measurement network and modelling to identify the impact of coal seam gas (CSG) production activities on air quality in the region.
The data analysed was collected between September 2014 and December 2016, at three gas field and two regional ambient air monitoring sites, and through a network of passive gas sites in the Miles-Chinchilla-Condamine area.
Where air quality criteria were exceeded, investigations showed that likely sources of particles in the study area were mostly typical of rural Australian regions. This includes vegetation fires, livestock activities, and dust from unsealed roads, with the CSG industry likely contributing to dust events at one site. The largest methane concentrations observed were likely associated with the CSG industry but were not associated with any exceedance of air quality criteria.
Data from the ambient air monitoring sites from January 2017 to February 2018 will be available in a final report released around mid-2018. An overall assessment of air quality in the study area from 2014 to 2018 will also be presented in the final report.
To find out more, read the interim report.
A new report has provided practical insights to optimise future groundwater monitoring in the Pilliga region of New South Wales to reduce prediction uncertainty and better detect coal seam gas (CSG)-induced groundwater changes, if CSG development were to proceed.
The Spatial design of groundwater monitoring network in the Narrabri Gas Project area project looked at how designing groundwater monitoring bore networks can assist early detection of changes. The study also identified the relative worth of future monitoring data and analysed predictive groundwater modelling results to show that developing a co-ordinated network of bores helps reduce the uncertainty of predicted changes.
The final report, released in May, found that a co-ordinated network of bores can help to improve confidence around prediction of CSG-induced groundwater impacts, and help minimise the risk of environmental damage. While the utility of a network of monitoring bores was demonstrated in the CSG-context, the study does not recommend any single monitoring network for the region. These decisions are made by the regulators and consider a wider range of factors, including effects of multiple water users and industries and the implication of predicted impacts in the water resources management context.
The analysis found that the groundwater drawdown impacts from CSG water extractions in the Great Artesian Basin aquifer underlying the forest, the Pilliga Sandstone, would be less than 0.2 m for most of the areas within and beyond the proposed gas project area. The model study, which was based on a generic scenario of CSG development, and current understanding of the groundwater system, concluded that it was highly likely that CSG-induced drawdown would be less than 1.2 m.
Also, groundwater modelling to understand water quality impact screening has shown that water flows very slowly in the Pilliga Sandstone aquifer and particles are likely to travel in the order of hundreds of metres from the CSG wells within a period of 100 years.
The data-worth analysis showed that monitoring groundwater pressure in the deeper geological formations between the Pilliga Sandstone and the coal seams, would provide valuable data for informing early detection of impacts. Model-based predictions of impacts can inform data collection strategies, and the new data can, in turn, help improve subsequent models and confidence in their predictions.
A new study to investigate possible health effects of coal seam gas development is now underway in the Surat Basin in southern Queensland.
The Potential health impacts from CSG project, led by Dr Cameron Huddlestone-Holmes, applies a framework, designed to ensure that research is scientifically robust and meets community expectations, to identify and screen for potential human health effects of coal seam gas (CSG) activity.
One of the project’s first tasks will be to establish a local stakeholder group and to gain their input on the exact location of the study site.
Outcomes planned for the research include: identifying potential chemical and physical hazards due to CSG activity, and the pathways through which the community may be exposed to the hazards; assessing existing data and identifying knowledge gaps, and; further in-depth assessment of key issues to enable the health study framework to be demonstrated in its entirety.
The study runs for two years and a key component is the involvement of local stakeholders as part of a reference group.
Research into South Australia's conventional gas industry has been given the green light following the inaugural meeting of the SA Regional Research Advisory Committee (SA RRAC) on May 30.
The three-year program, supported by the SA Government, aims to deepen knowledge of the social and environmental impacts of the onshore gas industry in the Otway Basin in the South East.
The SA RRAC will independently review and approve research proposals on the science questions which the community, government and local industry seek answered about the conventional gas industry.
Watch our researchers examining the air, soil and water impacts of hydraulic fracturing in coal seam gas production in gas fields near Roma in central Queensland, in a new video now available on the GISERA website.
In one of the most comprehensive Australian studies of its type, CSIRO is testing air, soil and water for potential contaminants before, during and after hydraulic fracturing processes. Laboratory tests will also simulate the impact of spills that may occur in the environment.
Results are expected in late 2018. Research outcomes will be shared with the community, government, and industry.