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Positive findings for CSG wellhead compliance

Key findings in a Queensland Coal Seam Gas industry report that have just been released show the overwhelming majority of CSG well heads operate within strict safety standards.

Employment, Skills and Mining Minister Stirling Hinchliffe released the results of the Coal Seam Gas Well Head Safety Program audit and said 98% of more than 2,700 well heads tested showed no reportable leak.

The report details the results of an industry-wide audit of Queensland CSG wells after concerns were raised by some people about possible leaks in the Tara area.

“Only five of the 2719 well sites inspected throughout Queensland had leaks of a recognised flammable risk,” Hinchliffe said.“While they posed limited risks to workers and the community, action was taken to fix them as soon as possible. A further 29 leaks were detected that were below the flammable range. These leaks posed very little to no safety and health risk to the community or CSG workers and were fixed.”

Queensland’s coal seam gas and liquefied natural gas industry must comply with tough new reporting standards under the State Government Code of Practice for detecting and managing gas emissions at well sites.

The Code of Practice ordered strict reporting of detection and remediation of well head leaks.

“Companies must now immediately fix leaks that fall over the reportable level- even those which may have a very low volume of gas- and report those leaks to the Government’s Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate,” Hinchliffe said.

“The minimum is set at just 10% of the concentration needed to sustain a flame, even though leaks at that level pose very little to no safety health risk to workers or the community.

“The 10% minimum set in the Code is far tougher than the 20%-25% concentration levels commonly used by gas and emergency workers responding to domestic gas leaks.

The new Code of Practice is expected to guide companies with their ongoing testing, monitoring and maintenance regimes as part of rigorous State Government requirements.

“What we have now is a consistent standard for the testing and reporting of gas leaks based on science and potential risk,” he said. “Industry audits will be accompanied by regular random audits by the Petroleum and Gas inspectorate."

Much of the gas extracted during the CSG process would be converted to LNG and exported to key Asian markets.

“LNG is fast becoming an important, lower-emission, transitional fuel as domestic and international markets look for viable alternatives to coal,” Hinchclife said. “It’s an industry that is expected to bring 18,000 direct and indirect jobs to Queensland."

“Already, the three LNG projects with State and Federal approvals are proposing a combined investment of up to $66 billion in Queensland over the next four years.

The Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate will continue to monitor the industry for safety and compliance. Nine new inspectors have been employed since mid 2010.

Other regulation on the CSG industry introduced by the Queensland State Government include:
• New land access laws that ensure the rights of landowners in their dealings with resource companies
• Template contracts that set out guidelines for compensation for landowners
• Banning the deliberate use of BTEX chemicals in the fraccing process
• Making it compulsory for CSG companies to give ten days written notice before they carry out activities like fraccing
• Creating a one-stop CSG-LNG Enforcement Unit

The Code of Practice and the Well Head Safety Report can be found here.

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