Gov't chimes in on unconventional gas inquiry

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews

The Victorian Government has made a largely critical submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Unconventional Onshore Gas.

Accompanied by an Onshore Natural Gas Water Sciences Study, which revealed varied groundwater impact assessments for the Otway and Gippsland regions, the interdepartmental government submission raised concerns for the environmental and human impact of the industry.

The government stated that unconventional gas “may have” potential impacts on land, ground and surface water resources, air quality, greenhouse gas emission levels, biodiversity and ecosystem function.

It continued on to say impacts may also arise from wastes including produced water, hydraulic fracturing fluids, drilling fluids and other contaminated substances, which could spur potential public health risks and seismic activity.

However the government also admitted to a general lack of knowledge regarding most points of impact relating to onshore unconventional gas development, including prospectivity, human health, environment and greenhouse gas impacts.

“Some studies have pointed to high potential for greenhouse gas emissions from unconventional gas extraction; however, at present, this is relatively poorly understood. Whether the potential use of unconventional gas by Victorian consumers would increase or decrease overall greenhouse gas emissions for the State depends heavily on whether the usage would displace electricity generated from coal fired power plants.

“The extent to which onshore unconventional gas can contribute to Victoria’s energy mix is unknown and without further exploration the contribution will remain zero.

“In the absence of an accurate estimate of commercially recoverable unconventional gas, no definitive conclusions may be drawn regarding Victoria’s emissions profile or the implications for climate change.”

The submission also noted that onshore unconventional gas could provide positive impacts to the state’s rural farming communities.

“The potential impacts of developing onshore unconventional gas, and the coexistence with existing land and water use, raise concerns for some landholders, traditional owners and community groups, which require careful consideration,” the submission reads.

“Onshore unconventional gas production can have positive impacts on regional economies. Studies of Queensland’s experience found rural decline was reversed, and communities with coal seam gas industry experienced growth in youth population, increased education levels and increases to family incomes.”

The accompanying water studies stated that impacts from unconventional gas development to the Otway region’s water table and ecosystem would be classified low.

In the Gippsland region, the potential for impacts on water users and ecosystems from possible onshore natural gas developments was also found to be low for tight and shale gas operations.

Potential coal seam gas operations, however, were deemed to have moderate to high impacts on Gippsand’s groundwater – with the potential to reduce the groundwater level by about 15 metres without mitigating measures.

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