Safeguarding the Queensland CSG industry

CSG well safety inspections.

CSG well safety inspections.

As industry activity expands significantly to cater for the emerging export LNG industry in Queensland, issues about the safe operation of CSG wells, facilities and pipelines have been expressed within the community.

Coal seam gas (CSG) activities – including exploration, appraisal and development – first began in Queensland in the 1980s, and CSG has been safely produced in the Bowen and Surat Basins for the domestic eastern seaboard market since 1996.

This increased activity brings its own set of challenges in the areas of health and safety to address community concerns.

The CSG industry has grown sharply in recent years, with more than 2,700 coal seam wells now mostly located in southwest Queensland.

Keeping Queensland safe

The Queensland Government regulates health and safety in the petroleum and gas sector and is working with industry to address safety concerns raised by the community.

For example, there has been a full safety audit of all CSG wells, and community forums have been held in relevant regions to talk to landowners about the industry, and the government is deploying additional petroleum and gas inspectors throughout the state.

Wellhead inspection program

Earlier in 2010, the Queensland Government ordered all CSG producers to review their operations, to ensure their gas wells and associated equipment meet appropriate health and safety standards.

Under the program, all CSG producers were required to do a re-inspection and risk assessment of all existing wellheads and report back to the Government.

The preliminary report released in July 2010 found that more than 2,239 individual wells, or 95 per cent, came back absolutely clear of any safety issues.

While small leaks were detected in the remaining 5 per cent of wells, none have been found to pose any threat to public health and safety and all are operating within national health and safety standards.

The Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate is currently completing the final wellhead safety audit report and this is expected to be released in the near future.

New recruits

The Queensland Government is investing an additional $14.6 million over the next four years to substantially increase the number of Petroleum and Gas inspectors throughout Queensland.

In 1985, there were a total of 12 inspectors, a number which has increased only to 15 in 2010.

As of 30 August 2010, six additional Petroleum and Gas inspectors have been employed by the Queensland Government.

Two new recruits are based in Toowoomba and Bundaberg to increase the Government’s regional coverage.

The remaining four are stationed in the Brisbane Southern Regional Office where they will significantly increase the Inspectorate’s capacity to service the whole Southern Region; including monitor compliance of CSG activities in the Surat Basin.

The Department is currently recruiting an additional two inspectors to be based in the Dalby and Roma districts.

Further, an additional Principal Inspector position was also advertised and a dedicated full time investigator is also being recruited in the second half of 2010 to assist inspectors with significant compliance investigations.

This recruitment drive will increase the number of State Government Petroleum and Gas Inspectors working throughout Queensland to 24.

This expanded inspectorial service will enable a higher level of inspection, audit and investigation activity to work with industry on compliance issues.

Safety for the future

Activities in the CSG area are set to increase as project proponents gear up to meet commercial supply contracts which, in some cases, start from 2014.

The Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate duties include the administration of petroleum and gas operations from exploration and production through transmission, reticulation and all forms of domestic and commercial use.

The Government is taking action to put in place additional inspectors to ensure the safety and health of this expanding workforce and to have people on ground in the regions where they are needed.

The Queensland Government is committed to maintaining the health and safety of the petroleum and gas industries and the community as these industries continue to grow.

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