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Australia and New Zealand CBNG development and environmental implications

By Mauricio Taulis


Following the success of Coalbed Natural Gas (CBNG) operations in the United \ud States, companies in Australia and New Zealand have been actively exploring and \ud developing this technology for the last two decades. In particular, the Bowen and Surat \ud basins in Queensland, Australia, have undergone extensive CBNG development. \ud Unfortunately, awareness of potential environmental problems associated with CBNG \ud abstraction has not been widespread and legislation has at times struggled to keep up with \ud rapid development. \ud In Australia, the combined CBNG resource for both the Bowen and Surat basins has \ud been estimated at approximately 10,500 PJ with gas content as high as 10 m3/tonne of \ud coal. There are no official estimates for the magnitude of the CBNG resource in New \ud Zealand but initial estimates suggest this could be up to 1,300 PJ with gas content ranging \ud from 1 to 5 m3/tonne of coal. \ud In Queensland, depressurization of the Walloon Coal Measures to recover CBNG \ud has the potential to induce drawdown in adjacent deep aquifer systems through \ud intraformational groundwater flow. In addition, CBNG operators have been disposing \ud their co-produced water by using large unlined ponds, which is not the best practice for \ud managing co-produced water. CBNG waters in Queensland have the typical geochemical \ud signature associated with CBNG waters (Van Voast, 2003) and thus have the potential to \ud impair soils and plant growth where land disposal is considered. Water quality from \ud exploration wells in New Zealand exhibit the same characteristics although full scale \ud production has not yet begun. \ud In general, the environmental impacts that could arise from CBNG water extraction \ud depend on the aquifer system, the quantity and quality of produced water, and on the \ud method of treatment and disposal being used. Understanding these impacts is necessary \ud to adequately manage CBNG waters so that environmental effects are minimized; if properly managed, CBNG waters can be used for beneficial applications and can become \ud a valuable resource to stakeholders

Topics: 040603 Hydrogeology, coal seam gas
Publisher: Nova Publishers
Year: 2009
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