Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Goings On In Gloucester OR The Case Of The Coal Seam Gas Fracking Flowback Water

This little tale, told in excerpts from news articles and media releases, illustrates how changing a sum of money from a "penalty" to a "tradewaste charge" gave unpopular coal seam gas miner AGL Energy an excuse to deny that it had been involved (through its waste water treatment contractor Transpacific Industries) in dumping coal seam gas waste water into a Hunter Water Corporation sewer system.

What this change in wording did not do was stop its contractor from refusing to take any more AGL waste water from its Gloucester coal seam gas project in the foreseeable future.

Newcastle Herald 9 March 2014:

HUNTER Water has refused to dispose of waste water from AGL's Gloucester coal seam gas project because of concerns about chemical contamination.
AGL, which is yet to receive final state-government approval to frack four pilot wells, approached Hunter Water last year about transporting waste water from the site to a treatment plant.
But Hunter Water has told AGL that the waste water produced from hydraulic fracking would not meet its criteria for tankered waste water.
''Hunter Water's waste water works are designed and licensed for the treatment of human effluent,'' its letter to AGL states.
''Waste water (flow-back water) from hydraulic fracturing has the potential to adversely impact the waste water treatment process and therefore Hunter Water's ability to meet its environment protection licence conditions.''
Hunter Water's manager of government and media relations Jeremy Bath said the utility was specifically concerned about chemical additives likely to be in the waste water.
Waste water produced from coal seam gas extraction often contains a range of fracking and drilling chemicals and heavy metals including arsenic, mercury, lead and cadmium. It is also typically highly saline.
It was revealed on Saturday  that energy company Santos was fined $1500 after 
contaminated waste water  seeped  from a holding pond at its Pilliga forest project near Narrabri into an aquifer.
As a result the aquifer had increased concentrations of  lead, aluminium, arsenic, barium, boron, nickel and uranium.
An AGL spokeswoman said the company would dispose of waste water from the Gloucester project at an appropriate licensed facility, in accordance with its assessment of environmental impacts.

Gloucester Advocate 12 August 2014:

GLOUCESTER Shire Council has called on the State government to retrospectively introduce a 2km setback for coal seam gas wells in the valley following the decision to approve AGL’s Waukivory Pilot Program.
Resources Minister Anthony Roberts approved AGL’s plans to frack four coal seam gas wells at Gloucester last Wednesday, along with a renewal of AGL’s Gloucester Petroleum Exploration Licence (PEL) 285 for six years.
Council said it was ‘frustrated and angry’ the Minister had renewed the licence and approved fracking in the valley.
It called on the State to follow the science and not allow fracking until the federal government’s bioregional assessment, AGL’s numerical model to enable assessment of water impacts and council’s water study coordination report were complete.
 “Council acknowledges that the Waukivory Pilot is part of AGL’s research program, but has not been given compelling reasons as to why the test wells need to be located where now proposed,” deputy mayor Frank Hooke said.

Newcastle Herald 31 October 2014:

MIDCOAST Water "strongly oppose" AGL's plan to release recycled water from its Gloucester coal seam gas project into the area's waterways.
AGL's draft water management policy proposes releasing water used during coal seam gas drilling into nearby river systems when wet weather makes irrigation impossible.
The company said its preferred method of management is irrigation, and the discharges of desalinated water would only be made "during periods of high rainfall".
It said the water would only represent "a very small addition, less than 1 per cent, to the average annual flow of the Avon River of approximately 110,000 million litres".
But in a submission to AGL's draft water management strategy for the Gloucester gas project, Midcoast Water states it does not support the company's plans.
"We believe the proposed scheme will be very complex with a number of risks associated with its operation," general manager Robert Loadsman said.
"We strongly oppose the idea of using waterways as transportation routes for recycled water - such water has to be transported by pipelines."
MidCoast Water is also calling for a comprehensive risk assessment to be undertaken and contingency measures designed as part of any extracted water management scheme.
It said the water monitoring plan proposed by AGL was "highly inadequate".

Newcastle Herald 18 December 2014:

POTENTIALLY contaminated wastewater used to frack AGL's Gloucester coal seam gas project has been dumped unlawfully into the Hunter's sewer system by the private company hired to treat it.
Transpacific, one of the nation's largest wastewater management firms, has been fined $30,000 by Hunter Water for releasing treated "flow-back" fluid from the gas project into the region's sewer network.
It comes after AGL and Transpacific were both explicitly warned by the water regulator that releasing the flow-back fluid was a breach of its wastewater criteria.
Hunter Water asked Transpacific for a please explain after the Newcastle Herald revealed on Thursday that it was the company treating flow-back water for AGL.
Both AGL and Transpacific had refused to state what was happening to the water once it was treated, but when approached by Hunter Water, the company admitted to dumping the water into the sewer network…..
In a statement to the Herald, Hunter Water said it was "extremely disappointed" by AGL's "seeming inability to control flow-back water originating from its CSG mine".
"AGL has also previously committed to having measures in place to ensure that waste management companies would not attempt to discharge flow-back water into the Hunter Water sewer system," chief customer services officer Jeremy Bath said.

ABC News 18 December 2014:

There are renewed concerns over a coal seam gas fracking operation in the Hunter Valley, after a contractor was fined for dumping wastewater into Newcastle's sewer system.
AGL recently completed fracking at four CSG test wells just outside Gloucester, but has been vague on the detail of what would happen to the flow-back water from the operation.
Hunter Water says in October it refused an application from waste contractor, Transpacific to discharge treated flow-back water from the AGL site.
But it says it recently became aware that Transpacific had discharged a prohibited substance into the sewer system from its treatment site on Newcastle's Kooragang Island.
The company has since been penalised $30,000 and warned that any further breaches would result in the termination of its commercial agreement with Hunter Water.
Community group, Groundswell Gloucester says it is outrageous and AGL's licence should be suspended.
AGL 19 December 2014:

At our Gloucester Gas Project, as with all our operations, AGL's Upstream Gas team places the highest priority on meeting our environmental and community engagement obligations. 
So, it was deeply disappointing to read the Newcastle Herald's report yesterday (19 December) which wrongly claimed that "fracking wastewater" was being "dumped" in Hunter Water's sewers.
The story went on to claim this was being done 'unlawfully' and that our trade waste contractor Transpacific had been "fined" $30,000.
These incorrect claims unfortunately have caused concern and once again our project, where we are meeting the highest environmental and regulatory standards, has been tarred by misinformation.
Not one drop of untreated flowback water has gone to Hunter Water from the recent operations at Gloucester by AGL or our contractor, Transpacific, as far as AGL is aware. 

AGL 5 January 2015:

Recently you may have seen news reports raising concerns about AGL Energy Limited's (AGL) arrangements for the proper disposal of flowback water from our Waukivory Pilot at the Gloucester Gas Project.
We understand your concern for the safety of local water resources and we take our responsibility to protect water very seriously. So, please allow me a few moments of your time to set the record straight.
The water in question, 'flowback' water, is retrieved from a gas well after being used in the hydraulic fracturing of a coal seam. It is mostly water, with some sand and very small amounts of highly diluted additives from our hydraulic fracturing fluid. The quality of this water is monitored frequently and the monitoring results are reported to the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and published on our website.
AGL is required to transport this flowback water to an appropriately licensed facility. After reviewing our options, AGL engaged Transpacific to lawfully treat and dispose of this water under its licence with the EPA for wastewater treatment and disposal.
The Transpacific facility is the closest wastewater treatment provider to the Waukivory Pilot, which means that traffic movements and distances are minimised.
As far as AGL is aware, there is no justification for claims that AGL's flowback water was inappropriately disposed of and we are now providing details of these arrangements to the EPA for review.
It's also important to understand that there was no "$30,000 fine" involved. It is our understanding that Transpacific was being levied a trade waste charge under the normal terms of its trade wastewater agreement with Hunter Water.
Transpacific has advised us that it has suspended taking our flowback water while it is clarifying operational issues with Hunter Water. We have engaged Worth Recycling, a Sydney-based resource recovery and waste treatment company. Worth Recycling, which has Environment Protection Licences with the EPA, will transport and treat AGL's water and then recycle it for industrial purposes.
I would like to assure you that at no stage has flowback water been "dumped" into the Hunter Water sewerage system. Rather, it has been treated at a facility licensed by the EPA, and as far as AGL is aware, lawfully disposed of.
Finally, I assure you that all of our actions in relation to the Waukivory Pilot Program have been, and will continue to be, undertaken in accordance with our approvals and with the highest respect for the community and the environment. For further information please visit our online community,

Newcastle Herald 5 January 2015:

In a full-page advertisement in today's Herald, AGL states there was no $30,000 fine issued.
In its initial statement to the Herald, Hunter Water said it had issued a $30,000 ''penalty'' and then re-worded that to call it a ''tradewaste charge''.

ABC News 8 January 2014:

Hunter Water imposed a $30,000 charge on AGL's contractor Transpacific for accepting the wastewater from the four CSG test wells without its approval.
Transpacific has been warned that any further breaches would result in the termination of its commercial agreement with Hunter Water.

According to the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), Transpacific Industries Pty Ltd was issued with four penalty notices in 2014 for contravention of licence conditions at its Homebush NSW liquid treatment plant and, in 2013 AGL Upstream Investments Pty Limited was issued with three penalty notices for contravention of licence conditions at its Menangle NSW gas plant.

One suspects that the EPA may become rather interested in the goings on in Gloucester in the coming year.

Many Northern Rivers residents are watching AGL Energy with interest - seeing its inability to effectively deal with pollution risks as a problem Metgasco Limited would also fail to deal with should the Baird Government allow it to continue exploration and/or grant it a production licence on the NSW North Coast.

No comments: