This involves undertaking a comprehensive monitoring campaign to measure the air, surface water groundwater and soil impacts of hydraulic fracturing of gas production wells in the Surat Basin, Queensland.

This project will result in a series of reports summarising the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on of air, water and soil quality, based on data from a comprehensive measurement program air, water and soil quality before, during and after hydraulic fracturing activity.

[Music plays and a light bulb swinging back and forth appears on the screen and the CSIRO logo and text appears: GISERA, Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance]

[Image changes to show a gas burner on a stove and text appears: Research Update, Air, water and soil impacts of hydraulic fracturing of CSG wells, March 2018]

[Images flash through of a rear view of three males working on computers, an aerial view looking down on a city at night, a glass being put under a machine, a gas heater and water boiling in a pot]

Narrator: Coal seam gas is a form of natural gas which has been powering Australian households since it was first produced in Queensland in 1997.

[Image changes to show a 3-D square model of a slice of earth rotating in a clockwise direction and the coal seam appears in the model in blue and text appears: Coal Seam]

Coal seam gas is mainly methane found within coal deposits trapped underground by water pressure.

[Camera zooms in on the model and a line appears showing a drilling line from the surface to the coal seam and measurements appear on the model: Surface, – 300m and -100 m]

It is extracted through wells drilled between 300 and 1,000 metres deep, through rock layers to the coal seam.

[Image changes to show an aerial view of the drilling site and the camera pans over the area in a clockwise direction]

If water and gas don’t flow freely, hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking may be used to increase the rate of flow.

[Image changes to show a close-up view of the 3-D model showing water and sand particles moving down the drilling line to the coal seam and text appears: Hydraulic fracturing]

Hydraulic fracturing involves perforating the well casing at different levels to gain access to the coal.

[Camera zooms in on the drilling line to show fractures opening up into the coal seam areas]

Water containing sand and chemical additives is pumped under high pressure down the well, opening up existing fractures and creating new ones.

[Image shows liquid moving down the drilling line and into the coal seams and a droplet and text appears: 1% chemical additives, 99% water & proppant]

The sand keeps the cracks open, allowing the gas to flow to the well and up to the surface.

[Image changes to show an aerial view looking down on the drilling site and the camera pans in a clockwise direction and then the camera zooms in on two males getting out of a ute at the site]

The potential health and environmental impacts of using hydraulic fracturing to stimulate gas production from wells are issues of community concern.

[Image changes to show two males in hi-vis walking towards the camera on the site and then the image changes to show a close-up view of one of the males working on a piece of equipment]

To answer questions around the safety of hydraulic fracturing processes for the environment and people’s health, CSIRO is undertaking research through its Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance.

[Camera zooms out to show the male working on the equipment on the site and then the camera zooms in on his face as he looks at a control panel on the equipment]

Researchers have spent months in the field investigating the air, soil and water impacts of hydraulic fracturing of coal seam gas production wells in the Surat Basin, Queensland.

[Image changes to show the male writing data onto a notepad]

They want to better understand the impacts of hydraulic fracturing and provide information to Government, industry and the community.

[Image changes to show Erin Dunne talking to the camera and text appears: Erin Dunne, Research Scientist]

Erin Dunne: We’ve got our air monitoring station set up here, right next to a well that underwent hydraulic fracturing just a week or so ago and we’ve been here since July. So, we’ve been here before they fractured and we’ll be here for a while after so that we can measure the air quality before, during and after fracturing to quantify the enhancements that might happen during that process.

[Image changes to show Josh King and a female both wearing hi-vis and looking at a water sample in a plastic sample bottle]

CSIRO land and water scientists are collecting and analysing water and soil samples to determine the concentration of potential contaminants.

[Camera zooms in on Josh King talking to the camera and text appears: Josh King, Research Technician]

Josh King: So, our study aims to be a comprehensive investigation into some of the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing.

[Image changes to show the female holding a plastic bottle and then the camera zooms in on the bottle’s label: GW3 19/10/17]

So, we’re going to be taking over 100 water samples and up to 50 soil samples and analysing for a whole range of potential contaminants.

[Image changes to show Josh King talking to the camera]

We will be looking at the chemical composition of the material that goes down the well and we’ll also be looking at the chemical composition of what comes back up the well, some of those naturally occurring things that will come back up the well.

[Image changes to show Simon Apte standing inside an office and talking to the camera and text appears: Simon Apte, Senior Research Scientist]

Simon Apte: At CSIRO, we have a range of highly sensitive chemical instruments that we can use to measure the concentrations of chemicals in environmental samples to very, very low concentrations

[Image changes to show a machine dipping a nozzle into specimen bottles and then the camera zooms in on the specimen bottles in a tray]

and in this project we’re using this capability to measure over 150 potential contaminants in both waters and soil samples, collected from regions in Central Queensland who have been subjected to hydraulic fracturing operations.

[Image changes to show Rai Kookana and another male looking at soil samples on a wall display and then the camera zooms in on Rai talking and explaining something to the other male]

Narrator: To simulate a spill in the environment, a laboratory scenario study will expose soil samples representative of the different soil types from across the region to hydraulic fracturing fluids and flow back waters. The degradation and stability of the added contaminants over time will then be measured.

[Image changes to show Rai Kookana talking to the camera and text appears: Rai Kookana, Senior Research Scientist]

Rai Kookana: So, we are trying to answer three questions through this study. Firstly, whether the chemicals entering the soil through a spill, whether they break down or not. Secondly, if the spill happens to be fairly large and there’s a lot of water goes into the soil, whether these chemicals will continue to move through the soil to the ground water or not. But, most importantly we want to establish whether there would be any adverse impact on the health of the soil.

[Image changes to show an aerial view looking down on the drilling site and the camera pans in a clockwise direction]

Narrator: This project presents an important opportunity to generate a comprehensive, publicly available account of the potential for environmental impacts from coal seam gas, including access to production wells during an extended hydraulic fracturing programme.

[Images move through of a gas field site, a person walking on the site, a monitoring station and two employees moving around a ute at the monitoring station]

Gas field operator, Origin Energy, are allowing unrestricted access where safe to air, surface water, ground water and soil in the vicinity of wells being hydraulically fractured to establish instruments, collect samples and for ongoing monitoring.

[Image changes to show Simon Apte talking to the camera]

Simon Apte: This is the first study of its kind in Australia and possibly in the world, to look in detail at the impacts of chemicals both in water and soils and their effects on living organisms.

[Image changes to show a female working operating a machine working on sample bottles and then the image changes to show data on a computer screen]

Narrator: The project’s independence is managed through a panel of external independent scientists which will review the study results and outcomes.

[Image changes to show Erin Dunne standing at a monitoring site and talking to the camera]

Erin Dunne: I think the information in this study will be really useful to local communities to understand the likely impacts on air quality of hydraulic fracturing operations that happen around their area. I think it’s useful for governments to inform future development and I think it’s really important for industry to improve practice.

[Image changes to show an aerial view looking down on a drilling site and the camera pans in a clockwise direction]

Narrator: Results of the research are expected at the end of 2018.

[CSIRO, Australia Pacific LNG, QGC, Origin, Santos, NSW Government and Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation and Science logos and text appears: GISERA, Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance, Reports and data will be available on the GISERA website at www.gisera.csiro.au]

Reports and data will be available on the Gisera website at gisera.csiro.au.

[Music plays and then the CSIRO logo and text appears: Australia’s innovation catalyst]

Investigating air, water and soil impacts of hydraulic fracturing of CSG wells

Reports and journals

Water and Soil Quality Field Sampling Report PDF 5 MB

This report documents the water and soil sample collection phase of this project, including details of sampling methodologies employed, field observations and number of samples collected. A report describing the outcomes of chemical analyses conducted on the collected samples will be published by December 2018. The spills study on various soil types, which involves extensive laboratory experimentation, is being conducted as a parallel investigation.

Milestone 4 report, April 2018.

Air Quality Measurement Report PDF 4 MB

This report details a measurement program conducted at six different sampling locations in the Surat Basin, five of which were located adjacent to coal seam gas wells. A comprehensive suite of air quality variables were measured utilising a mixture of continuous measurement systems and integrated sampling of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), aldehydes and particulates onto specialised sample cartridges or filters. The measurement program includes the most comprehensive suite of measurements of air quality undertaken in an Australian gas field to date.

Milestone 1 report, March 2018.

Project progress

This project is approximately 40% complete.

Project proposal PDF 644 KB

A detailed description of the project, budget and research milestones.

Project order, September 2017.

Progress report PDF 771 KB

The project outline, any variations and research progress.

Progress report, September 2018.

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