Thursday, 29 January 2015

Banned BTEX chemicals found at AGL coal seam gas drilling site

The NSW Government prohibited the use of BTEX chemicals in coal seam gas activities on 6 March 2012, yet it may have been used in 2015 or alternatively the gas industry is allowing naturally occurring underground benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene to escape into the above ground environment:

NSW Environmental Protection Agency

Media release: 27 January 2015
AGL operations at Gloucester have been suspended and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) is investigating after the company informed the authority that it had detected BTEX chemicals at its Gloucester coal seam gas project.

AGL suspended operations today after announcing BTEX chemicals were found in samples from its Waukivory operations, said EPA Chief Environmental Regulator Mark Gifford.

“AGL informed the EPA that it was aware of these elevated levels of BTEX chemicals on 15 January, but it did not make these results known to the EPA or the public until today,” said Mr Gifford.

“The EPA is very concerned at AGL’s lack of timeliness and transparency in informing us of these results and we will be conducting a full investigation.

“The EPA can confirm that fracking fluid additives used at the Waukivory operation were sampled and analysed by Government environmental officers in November 2014 before fracking activities were allowed to commence.

“These samples were analysed for BTEX chemicals, which were not detected. Identifying the source of the elevated levels of BTEX chemicals found in AGL’s samples will be part of the EPA’s investigation.”

BTEX is a group of chemicals known as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. These chemicals can occur naturally in coal seams. The Government banned the use of BTEX chemicals in hydraulic fracturing and are prohibited in Environment Protection Licences issued by the EPA.

Contact: EPA Public Affairs


Newcastle Herald 29 January 2015:

AGL will not be allowed to resume work at its Gloucester coal seam gas project until it can prove its operations do not pose an environmental threat.
The state government ordered the company cease operations at the pilot project on Wednesday until joint investigations triggered by the presence of toxic BTEX chemicals have been finalised.
Office of Coal Seam Gas and Environment Protection Authority investigators are working to determine whether the toxic chemicals found in water samples from wells are naturally occurring or were introduced by the company.
‘‘I want to know exactly what has happened,’’ Energy and Resources Minister Anthony Roberts told a parliamentary inquiry that is looking into gas supplies in NSW…….

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