30 Jul 2014

Australia’s natural gas industry is used to uninformed media commentary based on the professional misinformation campaigns of environmental activists but Ross Mueller takes fact butchering to a new level (Clock’s ticking on fracking so let’s start talking now – Geelong Advertiser, 30 July).

Hydraulic fracturing has been used safely to enhance oil and gas production for 65 years in more than two million wells worldwide.

Yet Mr Mueller seems happy to ignore a proven track record. His claim that the process uses “600 or so” chemicals is a fabrication. Fraccing fluid is a mixture of around 99 per cent sand and water with 1 per cent chemical additives used in such diluted quantities they are not harmful to the environment.

Additives used in Australian fraccing operations include sodium hypochlorite and hydrochloric acid (both used in swimming pools), cellulose (used to make paper), acetic acid (the active part of vinegar) and small amounts of disinfectants. Additives are listed on company websites.

His exaggerated claim that groundwater becomes toxic and methane can pollute rivers, dams and streams is uninformed hysteria not supported by any scientific evidence.

In fact, in the United States, where fraccing has taken place since the 1940s there has never been a proven case of the process affecting groundwater quality. That’s not a statement from the gas industry but the US Environment Protection Agency.

Mr Mueller’s attempt to regurgitate what he describes as the “famous footage of US farmers igniting drinking water from their kitchen taps” is devoid of context. In fact, the scene of a resident lighting his tap water on fire in the 2010 movie Gasland had nothing to do with natural gas drilling or fraccing.

The resident had in fact drilled his water bore into a natural gas pocket – hence the methane in his water.

It’s extraordinary that Mr Mueller sources his information from the Lock the Gate Alliance, an activism group established by professional campaigners to stop the production of natural gas and coal in Australia.