CSG – APPEA tries it on again Part 1

This blog seems to have become a CSG activist blog, instead of a self-sufficiency blog.  We’re still working towards self-sufficiency (the latest projects are setting up the bees and hatching chickens) but all we’re writing about is stupid CSG.  I really intend to start writing about self-sufficiency soon (no, really I do) but if CSG comes to our area, we won’t be able to do any self-sufficiency stuff.  So the first job seems to be making sure our air and water remain as uncontaminated as we can make it.

So here’s another blog about stupid CSG.

The APPEA website (humorously titled www.wewantcsg.com.au) has a new “mythbusting” page –  yet another tiring example of the mining industry’s attempts to deceive the public and politicians, by simply repeating ad nauseum the same old misdirections and untruths.  Do they think we’re complete idiots?  Who does this work on?

I don’t have the time (who does? that’s why this rubbish works) to detail the problems with every “busted myth”.  So here is my take on two random ones.  I would really like to address the others, but until time permits, better two than none.

APPEA says :

“Myth: CSG is a new industry.

The facts: The CSG industry has been around for decades, and it has been a significant source of gas production in Queensland for more than 10 years.”

My bull@#$% detector says:

Summary:

  • The first “fact” given (that “the CSG industry has been around for decades”), hides the fact that the CSG industry has recently expanded in size, production and technology, and is very different to the CSG industry as it was decades ago.
  • The second fact (that “it has been a significant source of gas production for more than 10 years”) seems to support the “myth” instead of debunk it, i.e. ten years is not very long!  Even APPEA’s usual ally, the NSW Dept of Resources and Energy, believes that an industry 16 years old is “relatively new”.
  • Additionally, APPEA’s choice of myth to debunk conveniently avoids the main concerns of the public.

The long version: There are three ways in which this “debunking” is misleading.

First, the CSG industry certainly hasn’t been around for decades in its current form.  The first CSG explorations in Australia were done in 1976, but it’s only since the application of new, more powerful techniques in the mid-late 1990s that CSG has really taken off[1].

Below is a graph from a Qld government report showing the exponential increase in Qld coal seam gas production in just the last 14 years.  In NSW, the main CSG production project only started producing gas in 2001[2].

It is interesting to note that there is a striking discrepancy between the public relations pages of industry websites, which downplay the changes in technology that have allowed the very recent increases in CSG extraction, and the kinds of things industry sources say at industry conferences.

Here are just two examples of typical comments about this from industry conferences:

The brochure for the 2012 Conference on Engineering and Technology Developments in Hydraulic Fracturing (Denver, CO) enthuses about “developments in technology and methods for the hydraulic fracturing of unconventional reservoir sources.”  They say, “The production-driven growth of ways to maximize flow and improve hydrocarbon recovery has created some exciting new completion and stimulation methods.”  If these methods are new in 2012, how can they have been in use for decades?

Grahame Baker of RLMS[3], a mining industry consultancy, told the 2008 PESA Eastern Australasian Basins Symposium III:  “In only a decade, CSG has moved from a curiosity to a major component of the eastern Australian upstream gas industry.”  In a later section entitled “The LNG Revolution”, he mentions the [then only proposed] Gladstone LNG projects and adds “CSG has not previously been used as the feedstock for LNG plants”.  That doesn’t sound like they’ve been doing this for decades, either.

These are only two of many similar comments I found just by reading conference papers published online.  How can they say one thing to each other, and then expect us to believe their sanitised PR?  Really.

The second fact is given as if it helps debunk the “myth”, when in fact it supports it.  The NSW Dept of Resources and Energy describes CSG as “a relatively new industry in Australia, with production commencing in the Bowen Basin in Queensland in 1996.”  So if at 16 years CSG is a new industry, at 10 years it’s even newer.

Finally, the whole thing is a kind of straw man argument.  By using “CSG is a new industry” as the myth to debunk, they suggest that it’s simply the newness of the CSG industry that causes concern.  In fact, it’s what the newness implies that’s the problem:  that we don’t yet know the full impact (social/environmental/health etc) these new techniques will have, nor do we (despite government assurances to the contrary) have an effective regulatory framework to address them[4].  The facts given, even if they were technically true, only relate to the straw man argument, not the real concern.

I challenge APPEA to try to debunk the following statements, which reflect more closely the concerns raised by the recent increases in the size and technological power of the industry:

CSG has already been shown to have adverse social, environmental, health and economic effects, and we still don’t know the full extent of its potential impacts.

The regulatory framework around the CSG industry has been inadequate to prevent the many documented cases of adverse social, environmental, health and other impacts.

I also challenge APPEA to respond without relying on “state-of-mind” responses, for example “We are not aware of…”, or “There is no credible evidence for…” etc!  It’s quite clear to anyone who looks that there is evidence[5], and simply pretending that you can’t see it makes you look foolish at best, and malicious at worst.

APPEA tries it on again Part 2


[3] This is what Grahame Baker says about his business: RLMS, as part of its consultancy business, publishes on subscription regular reports on developments in the upstream gas industry in eastern Australia. Most of the companies in the upstream gas industry, as well as power generators and financial institutions subscribe to the reports. In the report…estimates are based on many sources of published information including previously published data adjusted for both production and reserve changes, activity statements from joint venture partners in fields, from major gas customers and operational reports from governmental agencies.  Personal communication with executives and senior operatives within the companies on a regular basis is used to refine and finalise the estimates.

[4] What we do have is a plethora of documented examples of where CSG extraction has gone wrong, both here and overseas (see, for example, “Fractured Communities, by New York Riverkeeper, or the Kyogle Group Against Gag submission to the NSW CSG Inquiry) – enough to cause concern that the full impact might be greater than the casual assurances of the mining industry would have us believe.

[5] For a small sample of this evidence, see Kyogle Group Against Gas submission to the NSW CSG inquiry for a multitude of documented adverse impacts and extensive references.  See also the www.lockthegate.org.au documents section.  Or contact me and I’ll put you in touch with CSG refugees you can talk to yourself.

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