French ban sparks Queensland fracking debate
Queensland farmers have raised concerns about the risks of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, after France banned the controversial procedure which is used to extract oil and natural gas.
The French parliament has passed a law banning fracking, while the US state of New Jersey has made moves in a similar direction.
Dalby landholder and Basin Sustainability Alliance committee member Anne Bridle says she is unsure about the safety of hydraulic fracturing.
“The practice certainly needs serious scrutiny because what’s happening overseas could happen here,” she said.
Fracking is a process used by the coal seam gas industry where water, sand and chemicals are injected into wells at high pressure, in the process splitting open coal fissures to release more gas.
Landholders in numerous parts of Australia have expressed fears about the chemicals used in fracking contaminating underground water supplies and damaging the environment.
With all that is happening overseas you do start to wonder what does it mean and should we be equally concerned here.Anne Bridle
Queensland has banned a group of cancer-causing chemicals known as BTEX from being used in fracking fluid, but the process of hydraulic fracturing itself is allowed.
Ms Bridle has first-hand experience of the risks of hydraulic fracturing.
Two years ago a gas well near her property was hydraulically fractured, connecting the Springbok sandstone aquifer to the Walloon Coal Measures seam below.
“With all that is happening overseas you do start to wonder what does it mean and should we be equally concerned here,” she said.
“The Queensland Government is saying things will be different in Queensland from the US because the Queensland industry is so highly regulated on fracking.
“I recognise they have improved some of the regulations around this practice, however I am very concerned, as I know of one coal seam gas company that is currently strongly lobbying to have the Government radically weaken its conditions on fracking.”
Every scientific study has come down in favour of the process and found it doesn’t pose a risk to adjoining aquifers.Ross Dunn
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association’s director of coal seam gas operations in Queensland, Ross Dunn, says France’s decision to ban fracking was political, rather than being based on science.
“Every scientific study has come down in favour of the process and found it doesn’t pose a risk to adjoining aquifers,” Mr Dunn said.
“Hydraulic fracturing has been used in Australia for a number of decades and is only occasionally used in the coal seam gas industry.
“It is a large part of the petroleum industry and is also used in the geothermal industry and sometimes in water bores.”
Mr Dunn says an Australian ban on hydraulic fracturing is unnecessary.
“Hydraulic fracturing is a much-maligned and misunderstood practice.
“As long as wells are designed and constructed to industry expectations then you don’t get gas leaking from them.”