The 4350water Blog highlights some of the issues relating to proposals for potable reuse in Toowoomba and South East Qld. 4350water blog looks at related political issues as well.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Qld wakes up to coal seam gas water potential ...

Courier Mail:

Water, water everywhere, but still the dams did shrink

23 January 2010

The arrival of Queensland's coal-seam gas boom poses one of the biggest environmental challenges in the state's history.

I wonder whether the State Government has the backbone or the skills to capitalise on the flood of water that will come with the gas. Or will it be another opportunity lost?

Soon there will be enough water pumped from under the ground in Queensland to fill Sydney Harbour again and again and again. Thousands of wells pumping up water every day for 25 years, perhaps longer.

Ironic, isn't it, in a state so starved of water; a dry land about to commit billions on reverse osmosis post-Traveston?

Oceans of water have to be brought to the surface to release the valuable methane gas trapped under it in coal seams across Queensland's Bowen, Galilee and Surat basins.

Four major players and a handful of minors plan to pipe the gas to Gladstone to compress it into liquid natural gas, hence the name LNG, and sell it overseas.

The LNG projects are fraught with environmental difficulties and so far a lethargic State Government has said little about the dangers - and the opportunities.

The gas boom is likely to usher in a quarter century of prosperity. Just in time, perhaps.

Billions in royalties are urgently needed to fill the fiscal black hole left by 11 years of haphazard Labor management.

If the gas were used only for domestic use, there would be enough to power every home and factory in the state for 300 years.

But for now, it's not about the gas, it's about the water. At high tide, Sydney Harbour is said to hold 562,000 megalitres of water.

One coal-seam gas producer alone reveals in its environmental impact statement that it will extract 1.2 billion litres of water over the life of its project.

QGC Limited, now a wholly owned subsidiary of BG Group (British Gas), spells out the enormous size of its project in its EIS.

"The project will rank as one of Australia's largest capital investments and generate significant economic benefits for Australia, and in particular Queensland, with 4000 direct jobs at the peak of construction, about 1000 permanent positions and an increase in the demand for goods and services.

"The project is forecast to stimulate an increase in Queensland's gross state product of up to $32 billion between 2010 and 2021, or $2.6 billion per annum."

Origin Energy has jumped into bed with ConocoPhillips, the third largest oil and gas company in the US, to form Australia Pacific LNG, and has even larger coal-seam tenements in Queensland than BG.

Australia Pacific has yet to deliver its EIS, but it can be safely assumed it, too, will be extracting in excess of a billion litres of water.

Said a spokesman: "The amount of water produced during coal seam gas extraction varies according to location and certain coal seam characteristics. A single well can turn out anywhere between 50,000 and 1 million litres of water per day."

Australia Pacific says the water, despite its salinity, is far too valuable to waste.

Like BG, Australia Pacific sees a number of beneficial uses from agricultural to industrial use and as a source of drinking water for towns lucky enough to find themselves on the gas fields.

Australia Pacific has already invested $20 million in a reverse osmosis water treatment plant at Spring Gully north of Roma to purify and desalinate water to drinking quality. This facility treats up to 12 million litres of water a day - the equivalent daily water use of around 65,000 people.

At Talinga gas field near Chinchilla, Australia Pacific is constructing a second reverse osmosis plant with the capacity to treat 20 million litres per day, expandable to 40 million litres per day.

The company is also trialling the fast-growing pongamia tree as a source of biodiesel.

Already 3000 bushes are flourishing near Miles on the western Downs.

Santos, which has been exploring the Roma district for oil and gas 40 years, has started a massive hardwood plantation near Chinchilla. No fewer than 700,000 white gums have been planted and will be watered by some of the 90 million litres of water Santos believes it will pump to the surface each day.

Insiders says the plantation may have a million trees for harvest within 20 years.

See - Sunday Mail - Water, water everywhere, but still the dams did shrink.

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