Lack of research and data around fugitive emissions
Coal seam gas (CSG) is a rapidly expanding industry in Australia but at present there is very little measurement based information available regarding fugitive emissions from the CSG production process. In Australia, fugitive emissions from coal mining, oil and gas production account for about eight per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.
Although those fugitive emissions are estimated and reported under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act, there has often been a high degree of uncertainty associated with these estimates in Australia – particularly from CSG production.
Australia's first fugitive emissions measurements
We were commissioned by the federal Department of the Environment to provide the first quantitative information on emissions from CSG operations from a range of production wells in Queensland and New South Wales.
Australian emissions lower than US
We measured emissions at 43 CSG wells – 37 in Queensland and six in New South Wales. Some key findings were as follows:
- of the 43 wells examined, only three showed no emissions
- the remainder had some level of emission, but generally the emission rates were very low, especially when compared to the volume of gas produced from the wells
- although low levels of fugitive emissions were detected from most of the wells studied, no emissions were found to emanate from the well casing
- many of the leaks detected were preventable and easily fixed.
Although this is a very low figure, it's important to note that this is only a pilot study, encompassing less than one per cent of the existing CSG wells in Australia. Another important consideration is that emissions were only measured from well pads, so cannot give a full representation of the whole-of-life emissions.
This work will significantly add to the knowledge base about emissions in Australia and help to better characterise Australia's CSG emission profile. To fully characterise emissions, however, a larger sample size would be required and measurements would need to be made over an extended period to determine temporal variation.