19 Nov 2014

Yesterday, APPEA Chief Technical Officer Rick Wilkinson responded to a number of questions from the Sydney Morning Herald relating to a Southern Cross University study on methane emissions in Tara, Queensland and northern NSW.

While none of these responses were published in today’s SMH print edition, they can be seen here:

SMH: Does APPEA have a comment to make on the report?

APPEA: See attached release.

SMH: Does it not raise doubts about the greenhouse gas emissions benefits of CSG over, say, coal?

APPEA: No. It does nothing to alter the fact natural gas is a cleaner-burning energy source than coal. The initial work done by the CSIRO is far more technically rigorous and on the basis of the sample of wells they tested, finds greenhouse gas emissions from CSG production wells to be very low, especially when compared to the volume of natural gas produced from the wells. Even the SCU has admitted the severe limitations in the conclusions that can be drawn from the study.

“From our data we cannot conclusively say that the elevated concentrations are due to CSG mining activities as we have no information about the area before the commencement of CSG mining.” (SCU researcher Professor Isaac Santos – SCU media release, 19 November)

SMH: I note two years ago when the research was released pre-peer review, APPEA wrote a letter to the SCU Vice chancellor attacking the research:

“Without evidence to the contrary, it appears that the research undertaken by Dr Santos and Dr Maher has not met the basic standards required of a scientifically rigorous approach,” the letter from David Byers, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s chief executive, said – the SMH wrote at the time.

Does APPEA now plan to write a follow-up letter to the university, withdrawing the comments?

APPEA: APPEA wrote to the University in 2012 to seek clarification on a number of points (see below).

(a) Has the research been subject to peer-review and if so who is conducting the peer review and when will it be finalised?

(b) In the interests of public transparency will the university provide GPS data highlighting exactly where and how many readings/measurements were recorded in the Tara area, on which roads and when?

(c) Did sampling take into account other potential sources of emissions such as naturally-occurring hydrocarbon seeps? As you may be aware, natural seeps are quite common, particularly near shallow sources of gas, such as coal seam methane.

(d) Did sampling take into account other potential sources of emissions such as large scale feedlots in the Tara area?

What is coal seam gas?