Researchers from Australia's national science agency, CSIRO, will be on the ground in the Northern Territory (NT) this week investigating baseline methane emissions in the Beetaloo Sub-basin, a 28,000-square-kilometre area southeast of Katherine.

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CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) is partnering with the NT Government to conduct baseline measurement and monitoring of methane emissions in line with recommendations of the Final Report of the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory.

“The methane emissions research will be the first project off the ground and we look forward to developing important information about background landscape concentration levels of methane and identifying sources where elevated methane levels are found,” CSIRO Research Director Onshore Gas and GISERA Director, Dr Damian Barrett said.

The methane emissions research is the first in a series of projects expected to be rolled out over coming months that can help inform the NT’s decisions about potential development in the Beetaloo Basin south of Katherine.

The research will include surveying in a range of seasons, including the dry, wet, and the fire seasons.

Researchers will use mobile surveys and fixed monitoring sites to collect information of the range of background sources expected in the area.

These include natural sources such as fires, cattle, natural geological seeps and wetlands, and human-derived sources such as water bores and emissions from existing mineral and petroleum wells.

Dr Barrett said the research is crucial in the long term to understand impacts from the industry, allowing stakeholders such as regulators, operators and the community the ability to make informed decisions.

“Providing scientific understanding of the seasonal variability of methane concentrations in the region provides crucial baseline data.

"Such comprehensive information has not been available in Australia before, so this work will contribute significantly to the scientific understanding of natural methane levels in general, and provides a baseline for accurately quantifying any future industry impacts.”

Norther nTerritory Minister for Primary Industry and Resources Ken Vowles said the government promised to accept all 135 recommendations given by the Scientific Inquiry into Hydraulic Fracturing in the Northern Territory.

"Before any hydraulic fracturing occurs, the Inquiry’s stringent recommendations related to this activity must be completed," Mr Vowels said.

"This methane monitoring will provide the government and the community with robust, transparent and representative baseline measurements of background methane emissions.”

To guide GISERA’s research program, a Northern Territory Regional Research Advisory Committee has been established, including a majority of independent NT members who review and approve all research proposals.

The CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) is a collaboration between CSIRO, Commonwealth and state governments and industry established to undertake publicly-reported independent research.

The purpose of GISERA is for CSIRO to provide quality assured scientific research and information to communities living in gas development regions focusing on social and environmental topics.

The governance structure for GISERA is designed to provide for and protect research independence and transparency of research outputs.

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