Abandoned CSG wells ‘time bombs’

Abandoned CSG (Coalbed Methane) wells ‘time bombs’ by Troy Rowling, August 23, 2012, Queensland Country Life
A SLOW-burning fire in an abandoned coal exploration well west of Dalby has raised serious concerns potentially thousands of similar abandoned test holes littering western Queensland could become “ticking time bombs” as coal seam gas production increases. Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Andrew Cripps said work would begin immediately to extinguish the fire, which was discovered by two local men on Saturday night, following a meeting of Queensland government officers, Peabody Energy (which own the neighbouring Wilkie Creek coal mine) and Arrow Energy on Tuesday. … It is understood the hole was drilled 32 years ago for Marathon Coal. … Basin Sustainability Alliance (BSA) member and local landholder Wayne Newton said CSG companies and the government must study what is causing the gas to find pathways and escape to the surface. … “The scary fact is that there are way too many unknowns when it comes to the CSG industry.” This leak follows the recent sighting of gas bubbling from a leak in the Condamine River, which is still being investigated by Origin Energy and the State government. Mr Newton questioned if these incidents were occurring when there are around 4000 wells operational in Queensland, what kind of environmental and safety impact will we be facing when there are more than 40,000 wells built? In a statement an Arrow spokesperson said there was no evidence Arrow’s operations have caused gas to leak from this 32-year-old coal exploration bore and it is unknown how long this bore has been flowing gas. “The coal seam gas industry plugs and abandon unused gas wells,” the spokesperson said. “The CSG industry reduces reservoir pressure by only taking enough water to reduce hydrostatic pressure and allow gas to flow.” However, Dalby-based water driller Ian Hansen, who has more than 35-years experience in the Great Artesian Basin, said there are potentially thousands of resource company exploration test-holes littered across western Queensland that have been drilled through multiple aquifers but have been left uncased or unsealed. He said this latest gas fire incident showed the region was “a ticking bomb waiting to go off.” … “I’ve come across these unsealed wells many times in my career – they are just everywhere. … Megan Baker, who farm less than 4km from the fire site said she knew of at least 19 abandoned test holes throughout their property following decades of exploration from resource companies. Mrs Baker said the latest abandoned hole was found only last week while fencing. [Emphasis added]

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