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Toxic chemical warning for controversial project

GAS WORRIES FLARE UP

Fresh concerns about the safety of an already-controversial coal seam gas project in Queensland have flared up.

As we noted at the start of the year, Arrow Energy aims to drill hundreds of new wells on the Western Downs near the area previously contaminated by now-defunct Linc Energy in one of the nation's worst environmental catastrophes.

Now a new report commissioned by the state government has found there's a risk that toxic chemicals from Linc's botched underground coal gasification efforts could spread as a result.

"It cannot be conclusively stated that contaminants (including benzene and naphthalene) will not migrate beyond the site boundaries due to Arrow's development,'' the study by consulting firm RDM Hydro says.

Cecile Wake
Cecile Wake

The analysis also reveals publicly for the first time that CSG activity in the area has led to an increase in methane bubbles in the nearby Condamine River.

That's the same body of water that can actually be set on fire because of such high concentrations of gas!

"The Condamine 'bubbles' exist because the river overlies one of these systems. While the seeps are a natural system, the gas escape is enhanced by down-dip CSG production, which is approximately 1km away,'' the report says.

Not surprisingly, greenies immediately seized on the findings to call for the Arrow scheme to be knocked back. Lock the Gate Alliance operative Ellie Smith said the company "must not be allowed to experiment with this disaster zone and put the surrounding community at risk''.

Arrow, headed by Cecile Wake, has sought approvals to expand the number of CSG wells at Hopeland, near Chinchilla, from the existing six to 280 as part of its $10bn Surat Gas Project.

An Arrow spin doctor did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

But the company has previously stressed that it's carried out extensive modelling from groundwater monitoring over the past three years.

The company believes the development "will have a negligible to low level of impact on groundwater movement from the former Linc Energy site,'' he told us.

UP IN ARMS

Speaking of gas, environmentalists are also up in arms that Origin Energy and its joint venture partners are seeking approvals to drill and frack across almost 500,000ha of land in central and southwest Queensland.

They allege it could threaten the wellbeing of national parks, including Carnarvon Gorge, as well as heritage sites, wildlife and groundwater.

Up to 7700 gas wells and their associated infrastructure would directly impact more than 17,000ha of space in the scheme proposed by Origin and its partners ConocoPhillips and Sinopec under the APLNG umbrella.

Origin's own analysis shows the project could affect at least 26 plant and animal species, including koalas, across the Surat and Bowen basins.

But a company spin doctor told City Beat that most of the wells would be drilled up to hundreds of kilometres away from the national parks.

"The maximum development scenario covers a broad area across central and southwestern Queensland, mostly in places where we are already operating,'' he said.

"It is misleading to claim we intend to drill thousands of wells right next to the national park.''

Originally published as Toxic chemical warning for controversial project



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