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New machine will test coal seam gas environmental impact

A new machine from the University of NSW will be used by researchers to determine how coal seam gas extraction affects underground water supplies.

The machine is a specially designed centrifuge, which takes clay samples from the walls of underground aquifers and subjects them to extreme pressure.

The machine will allow researchers to mimic the conditions of individual CSG extraction sites, and determine how quickly water contamination would spread.

UNSW Connected Water Initiatives Research Centre director Ian Acworth told The Sydney Morning Herald the machine would be useful in testing sites before mining started.

“What this machine will allow us to do is test aqifiers before mining goes ahead and work out the likely effects on them,” he said.

Acworth said he expected the machine’s findings to stop developments in some regions.

“I would expect it to actually rule out some areas from prospective coal seam gas developments.”

The research group is being supported by the National Water Commission and said the machine is likely to be used during environmental assessments for new mines.

Opponents of CSG development allege gas extraction and fracking has the potential to ruin groundwater supplies.

But the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) has repeatedly claimed the CSG extraction process poses no environmental or health risks.

The APPEA said the new machine "reaffirms that Australia has state of the art water scientists, and the necessary facilities to properly build and assess groundwater models, and test the geological cores to confirm accuracy."

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