A professor at the University of Southern Queensland, Steven Raine has been involved in research projects associated with the CSG industry in the Surat Basin for six years.
Professor Raine sees groundwater as the biggest challenge of his portfolio and he works closely with Commissioner Hayllor on this co-existence issue. The CSG industry extracts water from underground coal seams in order to release gas. It is estimated that up to 125 gigalitres will be produced each year by the industry in the Surat Basin Cumulative Management Area. While approximately 95 per cent of the volume is expected to be treated for beneficial uses, landholders are concerned about potential groundwater drawdown and contamination of Great Artesian Basin aquifers.
“Water is an integral part of regional communities,” Professor Raine said. “Without managing aquifers in a sustainable way, there is no regional Queensland.
“The quantity of water the CSG industry has predicted it will extract concerns existing groundwater users and regional communities. While the Surat Underground Water Impact Report, produced by the Queensland Water Commission, provided some level of comfort – predicting cumulative impacts from groundwater extraction would affect 528 out of 21,000 private water bores – the community still desires more information.”
Professor Raine’s first strategy has been to collate information on the CSG and groundwater science and research activities undertaken to date by universities, government agencies and CSG proponents. His report will outline 188 activities or projects identified within the scope of his inquiry, including investigations on:
• water treatment and management
• salt management and disposal
• impacts of CSG activities on groundwater drawdown
• groundwater quality and inter-aquifer leakage
• re-injection of CSG water into aquifers
• water quality and management guidelines for beneficial use of CSG water.
“The role of the science and research portfolio is to ensure that well focused, high quality and credible research is being carried out to support the co-existence of rural landholders, regional communities and the onshore gas industry,” he said.
“There is also a need to elevate public awareness of the scientific investigations that are being carried out and to advocate for all relevant studies to be made publicly available.”
Another major area of involvement for the Commission is to provide guidance to the State Government as it reviews the Coal Seam Gas Water Management Policy. The review aims to develop principles that should guide CSG water management and appropriate accounting systems for keeping track of beneficial use of treated CSG water.
In September 2012, the GasFields Commission Queensland consulted with key stakeholders on the review and from discussions formulated a submission that advocated, among other things, the key principle that treated CSG water should be recognised as a resource and not a waste product. The full submission is available at http://www.gfcq.org.au/key-issues/csg-watermanagement-policy-review.html