Showing posts with label Coal Seam Gas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coal Seam Gas. Show all posts

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Australian federal & state governments are preparing to exploit large gas resources that are still in the ground




The fossil gas industry in Australia tripled production from 1990 to 2010 and then from 2010 to 2019 production tripled again. Nearly all of the new production was exported. Australia has become the world’s largest exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG) and one of the world’s biggest gas producers. Australia’s gas and coal exports make Australia’s the third largest exporter of fossil fuels in the world, after Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Over the decade to 2018 Australia was responsible for most of the growth in LNG, and a third of the growth over the last 20 years, more than any other country Australia’s share of global gas production soared in recent years, even as its share of global proven gas reserves levelled out.

Australian Government publications list 22 new gas production and export proposals across Australia with an estimated gas production capacity of 3,368 PJ pa. Governments and companies are preparing to exploit further gas resources in the ground that are larger still.

Despite calls for decarbonisation be central to the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, the Australia government is proposing policies and subsidies for what it calls a “gas fired recovery”. From an economic and employment perspective, this makes little sense. There are many low cost ways to reduce gas consumption, and the industry, despite its size, employs few Australians. Expanding fossil gas production also threatens to release large amounts of greenhouse gases.

Burning fossil gas releases carbon dioxide (CO2). In addition, extracting, processing transporting and exporting fossil gas is also highly emissions intensive, and already responsible for more than 10% of current Australian emissions, on official government data. A large portion of these emissions come from gas burned by LNG facilities.
Australian LNG facilities burn around nine percent of all gas they receive to help liquify the remaining gas for export. Gas consumption in LNG facilities is double the size of whats consumed by Australian households and about as large as what is consumed by Australian manufacturing.

Another major climate impact is ‘fugitive’ emissions from flaring, venting and leakage. The true impact of these emissions is larger than officially reported. Fossil gas is made up mostly of methane, itself a greenhouse gas with much greater heat trapping potential than CO2. While methane is more powerful than CO2 over a 100 year timeframe, which is the conventional basis for comparison, methane traps far more heat over the nearer-term (a 20 years horizon). A small amount of methane loss greatly increases the climate impact of fossil gas.

Many recent studies show rates of methane loss much higher than the Australian government’s official figures, especially in unconventional gas production, such as coal seam and shale gas where techniques like hydraulic fracturing are required. Methane loss at rates observed in recent studies of large US shale gas fields range from 2.3% to 3.7%, at the higher end delivering a near-term climate impact equivalent to doubling the emissions of the burnt gas. Reducing and avoiding the release of methane emissions is essential to meeting the Paris Agreement climate goals.

There are 22 major new gas projects proposed by companies and listed by the Australian Government’s Office of the Chief Economist. The analysis here converts the supply capacity into common units for comparison and aggregation. The proposed projects are spread across the country and are of various sizes, types and stages. The largest projects are offshore fields designed for gas export, especially off Western Australia’s coast. The single largest project, Woodside’s Browse / Burrup Hub Extension, would involve piping gas from a large new gas field nearly 1000km through new undersea pipelines to an onshore facility for export…...

Friday, 29 May 2020

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Will Scotty From Marketing's pet National COVID-19 Coordination Commission recommend lifting the Coal Seam Gas Moratorium in place across the NSW Northern Rivers region?


"Nev Power: The Prime Minister 'rang me ... and said your country needs you.' "  [Financial Review, 3 April 2020]


On 20 March 2020 Australian Prime Minister & Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison created the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) to “ coordinate advice to the Australian Government on actions to anticipate and mitigate the economic and social impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic” and “advise the Prime Minister on all non-health aspects of the pandemic response”.

This is a list of NCCC commission members and key staff for the period 23 March to 22 September 2020 with remuneration for their services where known:

Chairman
Neville Power, Deputy Chairman of Strike Energy Ltd an oil and gas exploration company – remuneration by PM&C contract $294,079.50. Power has announced he is temporarily stepping aside from his position at Strike Energy to avoid perceptions of conflict of interest. However, he appears to be retaining 12,612,885 fully paid Strike Energy shares (worth in the vicinity of $2.4 milllion) & options on 6 million more held by his own Myube discretionary investment trust.

Deputy Chairman
David Thodey, Chairman CSIRO – paid expenses only

Commissioners
Greg Combet, consultant, Chairman of IFM Investors and Industry Super Australia - remuneration by PM&C contract $118,800
Jane Halton, board member ANZ, Clayton Utz, Crown Resorts, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, US Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation and
chairman of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, COTA, Crown Sydney and Vault Systems - remuneration by PM&C contract $118,800
Paul Little, property developer, Chairman and Founder of the Little Group, Chairman of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation and Skalata Ventures - remuneration by PM&C contract $108,000 for 2 days per week
Catherine Tanna, Managing Director of EnergyAustralia, board member Reserve Bank of Australia and Business Council of Australia – remuneration by PM&C contract $54,000 for 1 day per week

Key Staff
Peter Harris, public policy adviser, CEO of NCCC – remuneration N/K
Executive Assistant to Chairman NCCC – remuneration by PM&C contract $73,000 paid into the same Myube discretionary investment trust as the remuneration received by NCCC Chairman.

Advisors
Andrew N. Liveris, special advisor to NCCC, board member IBM, Worley Parsons, Saudi Aramco, on advisory board of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation and NEOM, controversial former Chairman & CEO of Dow Chemical and Trump supporter– remuneration N/K

For the more than $885,479 in taxpayer dollars spent on this commission over a six month period, Australia gets a website of sorts pmc.gov.au/nccc along with a Twitter account NCCCgovau and, what is shaping up to be a lack of transparency and accountability concerning advice this commission gives behind closed doors to government.

According to The Guardian on 21 May 2020:

A leaked draft report by a manufacturing taskforce advising the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) recommends the Morrison government make sweeping changes to “create the market” for gas and build fossil fuel infrastructure that would operate for decades.

Its vision includes Canberra underwriting an increased national gas supply, government agencies partnering with companies to accelerate development of new fields such as the Northern Territory’s vast Beetaloo Basin, and states introducing subsidy schemes for gas-fired power plants.

It says the federal government should help develop gas pipelines between eastern states and the north, and potentially a $6bn trans-Australian pipeline between the east and west, by either taking an equity position, minority share or underwriting investments.

The taskforce, headed by….Saudi Aramco board member Andrew Liveris, positions lower-cost gas as the answer to building a transformed manufacturing sector that it says could support at least 85,000 direct jobs, and hundreds of thousands more indirectly.

But it does not consider alternatives to gas, or what happens if greenhouse gas emissions are cut as promised under the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Gas is usually described as having half the emissions of coal when burned, though recent studies have suggested it could be more.

The Liveris report does not mention climate change, Australia’s emissions reduction targets or the financial risk, flagged by institutions in Australia and overseas, of investing in fossil fuel as emissions are cut.

While several assessments have found renewable energy backed by storage is now the cheapest option for new electricity generation, the report says gas is “key to driving down electricity cost and improving investment in globally competitive advanced industry”.

Its focus is consistent with the NCCC chairman, Nev Power, a former Fortescue Metals chief and current board member at gas company Strike Energy, who has said in interviews that cheap gas would be critical to Australia’s future. Gas has been strongly backed by the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and the energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, who has argued for a gas-fired recovery from the pandemic.

According to Friends of the Earth Australia the leaked document also suggests lifting the coal seam gas moratorium in New South Wales, which is an issue I’m sure the Northern Rivers region will be keeping a close eye on. 

UPDATE 

The Guardian, 5 June 2020: 

Officials from Scott Morrison’s department are refusing to release conflict of interest disclosures from members of the National Covid-19 Coordination Commission so they can be scrutinised by the public because the declarations are provided “in confidence”. 

The departmental pushback has come in responses to questions on-notice from the Senate committee examining the government’s response to the pandemic. 

Controversy has been escalating about the potential for conflicts of interest among the commissioners handpicked by the prime minister to provide advice at the height of the coronavirus crisis. 

The high-powered coordination commission, headed by the former Fortescue Metals chief Nev Power, has a broad remit, advising the government on all non-health aspects of its pandemic response. 

But concerns have been raised about the lack of transparency of the group’s deliberations, and the absence of a conventional governance framework for a taxpayer-funded enterprise. 

The NCCC has a budget of more than $5m.... 

The Guardian, 3 May 2020:

When the Daily Telegraph reported last week that a fertiliser plant in Narrabri being advanced by a West Australian businessman had topped the list of the projects being promoted by the National Covid Coordination Commission, there was some surprise. 

Vikas Rambal and Perdaman Chemicals and Fertilisers are not exactly household names, and the controversial Narrabri coal seam gas project – which would provide the cheap gas that the fertiliser project depends on – is yet to be approved by the New South Wales government.... 

Rambal has not yet sought planning approval of the $1.9bn project and the only tangible signs are press releases promising 700 jobs and a non-binding agreement with the coal seam gas project’s owner, Santos..... 

The Daily Telegraph, 24 April 2020:

Mr Rambal’s plant would create up to 800 jobs during construction and 70 to 80 permanent­ roles in Narrabri, supplying farmers in a 300km radius. “It’s a huge project,”  Mr Rambal, who is also advancing a $4.5 billion fertiliser plant in WA, told The Daily Telegraph. 

He said Mr Power’s Commission could help by picking up the phone to politicians to remove roadblocks and speed up approvals. 

Mr Taylor said making more fertiliser was a “cracking opportunity” for Australia and would help achieve the government’s goal of growing agriculture to a $100 billion-a-year industry by 2030. 

He said he was focused on making more gas available. 

“I like to think of the other side of COVID-19 as being a gas-fired recovery,” Mr Taylor said. 

“We want to see the NSW government get on with (the approvals process for the Santos project).”  In January, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she wanted a final decision on the proposal by June 30. 

That now looks unlikely. The Independent Planning Commission is yet to receive a referral from the NSW Department of Planning. The IPC will take 12 weeks to make its ruling. 

It is unclear if the COVID-19 Commission is now attempting to hurry up the Department­ of Planning.....


Monday, 30 March 2020

Lock the Gate & Knitting Nannas Against Gas sound a warning over Berejiklian Government's sly move to take advantage of the current pandemic in order to further coal and gas industry interests


Knitting Nannas Against Gas, Fossil Fools Bulletin, 25 March 2020:

NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes’ push for the Independent Planning Commission (IPC) to proceed with public hearings during the covid-19 pandemic is has alarmed groups opposed to the Narrabri gasfield and the Vickery coal mine.

Stokes has instructed the IPC to continue with public hearings during the coronavirus crisis.

Lock the Gate NSW spokesperso Georgina Woods said people could not be expected to fully engage in the assessment process of major resource projects during a health crisis.

She called on the Berejiklian Government to suspend the IPC assessments of Narrabri and Vickery until the pandemic was over.

It is deeply disturbing Planning Minister Rob Stokes expects the
Independent Planning Commission to press ahead with a public hearing for controversial projects like the Narrabri gasfield and Vickery coal mine in the context of a global pandemic,” she said.

People will miss having say on projects

The Covid-19 outbreak is upending the lives of people globally and New South Wales is no exception.

People are frightened, and understandably so – the last thing many want to do is gather publicly, or miss out on their opportunity to have their say on these highly damaging projects.

The Planning Minister cannot possibly expect the Commission can
adequately or fairly undertake public consultation in this context.

People in rural New South Wales have limited internet capacity and in towns and cities we are bracing for further disruption while we put all our efforts into limiting the spread of this virus.

The Planning Minister needs to put public health and basic fairness first and allow the IPC to suspend its consideration of the Narrabri gasfield and Vickery coal mine until the pandemic has passed and people are able to fully participate, as is our right.”


Thursday, 12 March 2020

A reminder that the NSW Nationals do not have the best interests of Northern Rivers communities at heart


This was the NSW Nationals Member of the Legislative Council Ben Franklin (left) on the subject of a particular fossil fuel whose by-products, flaring and fugitive emissions contribute to Australia's rising greenhouse gas emissions and poor water security...... 

Echo Net Daily, 21 February 2020:

A recently announced bilateral energy deal between the NSW and federal coalition governments – which includes expanding the gas industry – has the full support of local Nationals MLC Ben Franklin.
Franklin replied to the question of whether he was supportive of the expansion of the gas industry, despite it contributing to anthropogenic climate change.
He said, ‘The bilateral deal on energy signed between NSW and the federal government is a wonderful step forward’.
‘As the minister for energy and the environment Matt Kean says, “It is the single biggest state-based financial commitment to emissions reduction in the nation’s history and represents a massive Green deal for NSW”.’
It’s a statement rejected by The Greens and environmental groups.....
* Photograph from www.parliament.nsw.gov.au


Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Berejiklian Government attempts to stall parliamentary inquiry into rules & regulations governing coal seam gas?


The Northern Leader, 22 November 2019:

A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry in to the rules and regulations around coal seam gas had to be postponed when, in an unprecedented move, government departments refused to allow public servants to appear before the committee.

Spearheaded by independent politician Justin Field, the committee is investigating if the state government has implemented the recommendations made by NSW Chief Scientist five years ago, to ensure the CSG industry operates safely. However, the committee found itself in uncharted waters, as witnesses from a government agency have never refused a request to appear before a parliamentary inquiry, and were forced to postpone it.

The witnesses, mostly from the various agencies under the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), were re-invited and warned further powers such as summons could be used.

The Leader understands most have agreed to appear and the hearing has been rescheduled for December 3. Mr Field said the government's written submission claimed it had responded to 14 out of 16 recommendations, however many other submissions suggested otherwise.

"It is essential that key officials front the inquiry so the committee can interrogate the government's claims on behalf of all those in the community who are concerned," Mr Field said......
BACKGROUND

An inquiry titled "The implementation of the recommendations contained in the NSW Chief Scientist's Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in New South Wales" was self-referred to Legislative Council Portfolio Committee No.4 - Industry on 3 October 2019.

The Inquiry's terms of reference can be found here.

Lock The Gate, 15 October 2019:
Deputy Premier admits CSG review recommendations ignored

The NSW Government has admitted it ignored a major recommendation from the Chief Scientist’s Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in New South Wales.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro made the admission during Senate Estimates, throwing doubt on the state’s regulatory framework for the damaging and highly controversial industry.

The revelation that the government does not intend to create the state-specific Standing Expert Body as recommended by the Chief Scientist comes as an assessment is being finalised for Santos’ controversial 850 well coal seam gasfield proposal at Narrabri. 

The Chief Scientist recommended the Standing Expert Body in order to monitor, inform and review the impacts of the CSG industry. 
Instead, the Deputy Premier cited the Commonwealth’s Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC), a body that was already in existence when the recommendation was made, and which does not have the functions or capacities the Chief Scientist identified as necessary to safeguard New South Wales from coal seam gas risks. 

Mr Barilaro said, “The government decided to continue working closely with the Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development rather than to establish a duplicate expert body in NSW." (see the top of page 96 in this doc)

The revelation also comes as a parliamentary inquiry begins to examine the Government’s implementation of the recommendations from the five-year-old review.

NSW Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said “The Government relies on the Chief Scientist’s review to claim coal seam gas can be safely managed in New South Wales, but now admits it has ignored one of the key recommendations of that review. 

“Without the Standing Expert Body that was recommended, independent oversight and safeguards to protect the groundwater that drought-affected communities rely on for their existence just aren’t there. 

“This is a big admission, particularly as the controversial and deeply unpopular Santos Narrabri gas field is expected to be referred to the Independent Planning Commission any day now. 

“The NSW Government has admitted its coal seam gas regulations are incomplete. The coal seam gasfield in the Narrabri area must not be allowed to proceed.
“Lock the Gate Alliance calls on the Berejiklian Government to immediately establish the  Standing Expert Body on coal seam gas developments recommended by the Chief Scientist."

Background

The functions of the authority recommended by the Chief Scientist are very different to that of the IESC and were to be to advise the NSW Government:
  • on the overall impact of CSG in NSW through a published Annual Statement which would draw on a detailed analysis of the data held in the Whole-of-Environment Data Repository to assess impacts,
  •  particularly cumulative impacts, at project, regional and sedimentary basin scales;
  • on processes for characterising and modelling the sedimentary basins of NSW 
  • on updating and refining the Risk Management and Prediction Tool;
  • on the implications of CSG impacts in NSW for planning where CSG activity is permitted to occur in the state;
  • on new science and technology developments relevant to managing CSG and when and whether these developments are sufficiently mature to be incorporated into its legislative and regulatory system;
  • on specific research that needs to be commissioned regarding CSG matters;
  • on how best to work with research and public sector bodies across Australia and internationally and with the private sector on joint research and harmonised approaches to data collection, modelling and scale issues such as subsidence;
  • on whether or not other unconventional gas extraction (shale gas, tight gas) industries should be allowed to proceed in NSW and, if so, under what conditions.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

Meet some of Meet Scott Morrsison's "indulgent" environmental "anarchists" as they sing about 200 weeks of continuous protest


Terrifying bunch aren't they? One can just see they have molotov cocktails in their back pockets and are planning violent chaos. 

Scott Morrison is such a fool.  

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Coal Seam Gas: Queensland supplies a timely lesson for the rest of Australia


ABC News, 26 May 2016:

The risk of spreading toxic groundwater from one of Queensland's worst environmental contaminations has prompted a ban on coal seam gas drilling in an area where companies are already extracting gas.

The State Government quietly created a no-go zone for gas extraction 10 kilometres around the former Linc Energy site in the Southern Inland, at Hopeland, burying the decision in an environmental approval issued to Arrow Energy in December.

Despite the ban, Arrow and QGC still have permission to extract gas within the zone.

On a separate, neighbouring mining lease — approved in August — Arrow gained approval to ramp up six existing "pilot" wells for commercial production.

Farmers said they were alarmed by the revelation and want state officials to come clean about the risks of groundwater contamination spreading under prime grazing and cropping land.

The ban is the first public admission that a burgeoning CSG industry could aggravate the Linc contamination, where toxic gases were released into groundwater by a now-illegal process called underground coal gasification.

Cotton grower Brian Bender's Hopeland property is split by the two Arrow tenements — where CSG extraction is banned on one side but not the other.

"I think it's a bit of a joke, really — there are no lines underground," Mr Bender said….

The ABC understands tests on groundwater contamination were being examined by a trio of experts who would be called as state witnesses in a criminal prosecution of five former Linc executives next month.

The failed company was convicted and fined a record $4.5 million last May for causing serious environmental harm through its underground coal gasification (UCG) plant.

The District Court heard in that trial that it could take up to 20 years for groundwater to recover from Linc's attempts at the now-illegal UCG process, which allowed toxic gases to escape through fractured rock.

At the time, the state's then-environment minister described the contamination as "the biggest pollution event probably in Queensland's history".

A week before Christmas, Arrow gained approval for 70 wells on a gas tenement to the north-east of the former Linc site.

It is part of its $10 billion Surat Gas Project, which Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk promoted in a February media release as Queensland's "biggest resources project since 2011".

Ms Palaszczuk's release made no mention of the gas extraction no-go zone.

But the state's Department of Environment and Science approval said Arrow "must not locate any [CSG] production wells within 10 kilometres [of the Linc site]".

"The extraction of groundwater as part of the petroleum activity(ies) from underground aquifers must not directly or indirectly influence the mobilisation of existing groundwater contamination on [the Linc site]," the environmental authority said.

It said the department may force Arrow to model CSG impacts on "groundwater contamination around [the Linc site] at any time" and present its findings within a month.

But there were no such conditions for gas drilling in the neighbouring Arrow tenement that surrounds the former Linc site, where six wells were approved in August…..

But will the Morrison federal government or the remaining seven state and territory governments learn from Queensland's disasterous mistakes?

Apparently not.........

2GB Radio, 24 May 2019:

The Minister for Resources is urging the New South Wales government to approve the state’s biggest gas project.

Santos Narrabri Gas Project is aiming to develop gas reserves in northwest New South Wales that could supply half of the state’s gas needs.

The Resources Minister Matt Canavan tells Ray Hadley almost all of NSW’s gas comes from other states.

“The problem with that is, of course, it costs a lot of money to transport gas long distances, so that has pushed the price up for Sydney based users of gas.

“Things have changed and we need to reflect that.”

The Canberra Times, 18 April 2019:

Federal Resources and Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan was in Darwin on April 17 to publicise an April 2 federal budget announcement of $8.4 million in funding to fast-track development of gas reserves in the Northern Territory's Beetaloo Basin.

"We want to get on with the job. We want to get the gas up out of the ground and into people's homes and businesses as quickly as we can," Senator Canavan said in a statement….

The Beetaloo Basin is about 500km south-east of Darwin in the Sturt Plateau region between the towns of Katherine and Elliott and includes pastoral land and indigenous communities. Around 70 per cent of the Territory's shale gas resources are estimated to lie in the Beetaloo Basin, reserves that could potentially raise Australia's global ranking of gas resources from seventh to sixth. Farmers, businesses and industry are divided over whether fracking should be permitted because of the risk of pollution to rivers and bores. Pro-fracking advocates argue it will be a boon for jobs and economic growth.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

PEOPLE POWER: Grafton Loop of the Knitting Nannas six years old and still going strong


The Grafton Loop of the Knitting Nannas Against Gas was officially launched six years ago on 19 October 2012.

The local nannas first began knitting in peaceful opposition to coal seam gas exploration and mining in the early days of the Glenugie blockade of a Metgasgo CSG test drill site in the Clarence Valley.

As part of the wider NSW Northern Rivers movement they helped keep the north-east "Gasfield Free!"

The Grafton Loop continues to be active on environmental issues and regularly hold knit-ins outside local state and federal MPs electoral offices.

This is the Grafton Loop on 13 December 2018 outside Nationals MP for Page Kevin Hogan's office, accompanied by "Nanna Kerry", a mascot veteran of mining protests in south-east Queensland.





This letter was sent to Kevin Hogan on the same day.....
https://www.scribd.com/document/395886572/Letter-to-Nationals-MP-for-Page-Kevin-Hogan-from-Grafton-Loop-of-the-Knitting-Nannas-Against-Gas-NSW-Australia

Way to go, Nannas!

Thursday, 31 May 2018

The people of the Liverpool Plains versus Santos and its irresponsible domestic and international shareholders


Oil and gas mining corporation Santos Limited is currently seeking approval to drill up to 850 natural gas wells on est. 425 sites over 95,000 hectares in the Pilliga Forest region of north-west New South Wales. 

Pilliga Forest is consdered a rare example of intact temperate forest and covers an est. 300,000 hectares sitting atop a recharge area of the Great Artesian Basin.

Santos presents itself as an Australian company, yet two affilated Chinese companys hold over 624 million voting shares in the companyand its top institutional shareholders contain the usual mix of international banks, finance and investment companies2.

In its 2017 annual report Santos admits; A range of environmental risks exist within oil and gas exploration and production activities3

This is the response of the people living on the Liverpool Plains. 


The backyard of New South Wales is facing its biggest threat yet – invasive gasfields. Betrayal by governments has meant protectors are fighting to save the things they love. The Pilliga, Great Artesian Basin, Liverpool Plains – all are at risk. This is a David and Goliath battle to save our land, air and water from destruction. It’s also a fight for the soul and future of Australia. In this film we meet the experts and people living in the sacrifice zone and uncover the truth behind the real gas crisis confronting ordinary Australians.

https://youtu.be/h3h1FxwI1CE

Footnotes
1. As of 27 June 2017 Hony Partners Group, L.P and ENN Ecological Holdings Co Ltd acting in concert
2. At Page 130 https://www.santos.com/media/4319/2017-annual-report.pdf.
3. 15 February 2017 Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection fined Santos  $12,190 for non-compliance with a Soils Management Plan.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Failed coal seam gas mining company Linc Energy's 9 week trial underway in Queensland, Australia


As the story unfolded.........

ABC News, 16 April 2016:

Oil and gas company Linc Energy has been placed into administration in a bid to avoid penalties for polluting the environment, a Queensland green group says.

It was announced late Friday that administrators PPB Advisory had been called in to work with Linc's management on options including a possible restructure.

In a statement to the ASX, the company said after receiving legal and financial advice and considering commercial prospects the board decided it was in the best interests of the company to make the move.

It comes one month after the company was committed to stand trial on five charges relating to breaches in Queensland's environmental laws at its underground coal gasification site.

The state's environment department accused the company of wilfully causing serious harm at its trial site near Chinchilla on the Darling Downs.

Drew Hutton from the Lock the Gate Alliance said the company could face up to $56 million in fines if found guilty, but the penalty might never be paid.

"It is going to be difficult to get any money out of this company now that it is in administration," he said.


Mr Hutton said going into administration was a common legal manoeuvre to dodge fines and costly clean-ups......

Queensland Government, Dept. of Environment and Heritage Protection, 29 January 2018:

Environmental Protection Order directed to Linc

Prior to Linc entering liquidation, DES issued Linc with an Environmental Protection Order (EPO) which required it to retain critical infrastructure on-site, conduct a site audit and undertake basic environmental monitoring to characterise the current status of the site.

Linc’s liquidators launched a legal challenge associated with this EPO in the Supreme Court seeking orders that they were justified in not causing Linc to comply with the EPO (or any future EPO). DES opposed this application.

In April 2017, the Supreme Court directed that Linc’s liquidators are not justified in causing Linc not to comply with the EPO. The Court accepted DES’ argument that the relevant provisions of the EP Act prevail over the Commonwealth Corporations Act and that Linc’s liquidators are executive officers of the company. Subject to any appeal decision, this confirms DES’s ability to enforce compliance with environmental obligations owed by resource companies who have gone into administration or liquidation.

Linc’s liquidators have since appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal. This appeal was heard in September 2017 and the decision was reserved.

Environmental Protection Order directed to a related person of Linc

DES used the ‘chain of responsibility’ amendments to the EP Act to issue an EPO to a ‘related person’ of Linc. The EPO requires the recipient to take steps to decommission most of the site’s dams and provide a bank guarantee of $5.5 million to secure compliance with the order.

The recipient of the EPO has appealed to the Planning and Environment Court and that litigation is ongoing.

The recipient of the EPO also applied for an order that the appeal be allowed and the EPO be set aside on the basis that DES denied him procedural fairness. The Planning and Environment Court dismissed that application. The recipient of the EPO appealed that decision to the Court of Appeal. That appeal was heard in March 2017 and judgment in favour of DES was delivered in August 2017. Subject to any further appeal, this decision confirms that the recipient was not denied procedural fairness and that DES’ interpretation of the EP Act was correct.

The earlier appeal in relation to the EPO (regarding the substance of the document) is yet to be heard by the Planning and Environment Court.

Investigation and prosecution of Linc and former executives

Linc Energy Limited will stand trial in the Brisbane District Court, commencing 29 January 2018, on five counts of wilfully causing serious environmental harm, in contravention of the Environmental Protection Act 1994.

All counts relate to operations at the Linc Energy underground coal gasification site near Chinchilla, from approximately 2007 to 2013, and allege that contaminants were allowed to escape as a result of the operation.

In addition, the Queensland Government has charged five former Linc Energy executives over the operation of the UCG site in Chinchilla. A committal hearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court is expected to take place in mid-2018.

As these matters remain before the courts, DES is unable to comment further on the legal proceedings.

Media releases


ABC News, 30 January 2018:

A landmark case described by a District Court judge as "unusual" will hear how gas company Linc Energy allegedly contaminated strategic cropping land causing serious environmental damage to parts of Queensland's Western Downs.

Linc Energy is charged with five counts of wilfully and unlawfully causing environmental harm between 2007 and 2013 at Chinchilla.

The charges relate to alleged contamination at Linc Energy's Hopeland underground coal gasification (UCG) plant.

The trial will enter its second day today in the District Court in Brisbane, with crown prosecutor Ralph Devlin QC expected to begin his opening address to the empanelled jury later this morning.

Former Linc Energy scientists, geologists, and engineers as well as several investigators from the Queensland Environment Department are among those expected to give evidence.

Echo NetDaily, 30 January 2018:

BRISBANE, AAP – A failed energy company accused of knowingly and illegally polluting a significant part of Queensland’s Darling Downs has faced trial in a landmark criminal case in Brisbane.

Linc Energy is charged with five counts of wilfully and unlawfully causing environmental harm between 2007 and 2013 after allegedly allowing toxic gas to leak from its operations.

The Brisbane District Court trial has heard Linc’s four underground coal gasification (UCG) sites and water were polluted to the point it was unfit for stock to consume but the company kept operating.

Crown prosecutor Ralph Devlin QC told the jury the company allowed hazardous contaminants to spread even after scientists and workers warned about gases bubbling from the ground.

Linc operated four UCG sites in Chinchilla where it burnt coal underground at very high temperatures to create gas.

In his opening address on Tuesday, Mr Devlin said scientists warned senior managers about the risk environmental harm was being caused throughout the operation…..

 ‘Bond prioritised Linc’s commercial interests over the requirements of operating its mining activity in an environmentally safe manner,’ Mr Devlin said.

‘Linc did nothing to stop, mitigate or rehabilitate the state of affairs that Linc itself had caused.’

As part of the UCG process, Linc injected air into the ground, which created and enlarged fractures.

It tried to concrete surface cracks and use wells to control pressure but they didn’t sufficiently reduce risks or damage, the court heard.

‘Linc kept going, even knowing the measures weren’t working,’ Mr Devlin said.

Scientists who visited the site are due to give evidence during the nine-week trial, but no senior managers from the company, which is in liquidation, will take the stand.

The trial continues.

ABC News, 8 February 2018:

Workers at an underground coal gasification plant on Queensland's Western Darling Downs were told to drink milk and eat yoghurt to protect their stomachs from acid, a court has heard.

The gas company has pleaded not guilty to five counts of causing serious environmental harmfrom its underground coal gasification operations between 2007 and 2013 in Chinchilla.

The corporation is not defending itself as it is in liquidation so there is no-one in the dock or at the bar table representing the defence.

A witness statement by former gas operator Timothy Ford was read to the court, which he prepared in 2015 before his death.

The court was not told how Mr Ford died.

He said the gas burnt his eyes and nose and he would need to leave the plant after work to get fresh air because it made him feel sick.

"We were told to drink milk in the mornings and at the start of shift… we were also told to eat yoghurt," he said.

"The purpose of this was to line our guts so the acid wouldn't burn our guts.

"We were not allowed to drink the tank water and were given bottled water."

Mr Ford said he always felt lethargic, suffered infections and had shortness of breath.

"During my time at the Linc site, would be the sickest I have been," he said.

"It is my belief that workplace was causing my sickness.

"I strongly feel that the Linc site was not being run properly due to failures of the wells and gas releases.".....

Sunshine Coast Daily, 9 February 2018:

A CONCRETE pumper says he saw 'black tar' seeping up at a Linc Energy site and raised concerns with the company.

Robert Arnold has told a court he noticed some odd occurrences when he went to the Chinchilla site in late 2007……

On Thursday, Mr Arnold told jurors he noticed several phenomena at the site.
"We saw bubbles coming up ... and a black tar substance. We commented back to Linc about it."

"A few of us went over and had a look ... basically it just looked like a heavy black oil ... it was in the puddles as well, in the same area," Mr Arnold added.

"We couldn't place our equipment close to the well because of these overhead pipes ... it was dripping out of the joints."

Prosecutor Ralph Devlin earlier claimed a "bubbling" event happened on the ground after rainfall at the coal gasification site.

Mr Arnold told jurors that after discussing the oozing substance, concrete trucks turned up and he pumped the concrete into a well.

Mr Arnold said he felt the concrete used that time was "very light" but the on-site supervisor made that decision.

Prosecutors previously told the court concerns were raised at various times with Linc leadership about the quality of cement and geological data used at the site.

The Crown has also claimed Linc used its underground wells in a way that made them fail, and allowed contaminants to escape far way, to places Linc could not remove them.

BACKGROUND
Wikipedia, 5 February 2018:

Linc started its Chinchilla Demonstration Facility in July 1999. First gas was produced in that very same year. Initially Linc Energy used the underground coal gasification technology worked out by Ergo Exergy Technologies, Inc, of Canada. 

However, in 2006 the cooperation with Ergo Exergy was terminated and the cooperation agreement for technology usage, consultation and engineering services was signed with the Skochinsky Institute of Mining and the Scientific-Technical Mining Association of Russia.[2]

In 2005, Linc signed a memorandum with Syntroleum granting a licence to use the Syntroleum's proprietary gas-to-liquid technology and started to build a GTL pilot plant in November 2007 at the Chinchilla facility. The plant was commissioned in August 2008. The first synthetic crude was produced in October 2008.[3]