A three-year study into hydraulic fracturing in Queensland has found little to no impacts on air quality, soils, groundwater and waterways.
CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) carried out the research in response to community concerns about the potential impacts of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations.
The study analysed air, water and soil samples taken before, during and up to six months after hydraulic fracturing operations at six coal seam gas wells in the Surat Basin.
GISERA director Dr Damian Barrett said the research was an Australian first and provided unique insights into the impacts of hydraulic fracturing in Queensland.
“Previously, the only information about hydraulic fracturing was from overseas studies in quite different shale gas formations,” he said.
“Clearly governance, industry regulation and operational integrity are crucial in managing risk and potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing.”
Endorsement for $8b industry
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the CSIRO study was an emphatic endorsement of the industry’s development of the State’s onshore gas reserves.
“This study is clear evidence to policy-makers that our gas reserves are being developed sustainably and successfully for Queensland, and there is no credible scientific or environmental reason to constrain the further development of these reserves,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“The study vindicates the bi-partisan support for the Queensland LNG industry over more than a decade.
“In 2018-19, the oil and gas industry provided an $8 billion injection to the Queensland economy and supported almost 40,000 jobs.
“That contribution is even more precious today with the severe economic impacts of COVID-19.”
GISERA study results included:
• Air quality monitoring found hydraulic fracturing operations had little to no impacts on air quality, with no significant variation between air quality at hydraulic fracturing operational sites and control sites where no hydraulic fracturing activities occurred.
• Levels of most atmospheric air pollutants detected were generally below relevant national air quality objectives. Increased levels of airborne particles were associated with dust from vehicle movement.
• Hydraulic fracturing chemicals were not detected in water samples taken from nearby groundwater bores, soil samples from sites adjacent to operational wells, or in water samples from a nearby creek. • Water produced from the wells immediately after fracturing contained hydraulic fracturing chemicals, elevated concentrations of major ions (salts), ammonia, organic carbon, some metals and organic compounds, with concentrations reducing to a pre-fractured state within 40 days.
• Current water treatment operations are effective in removing hydraulic fracturing chemicals and geogenic chemicals either completely or reducing levels to within acceptable limits according to water quality guidelines.
• Some types of biocides used in hydraulic fracturing fluids and some geogenic chemicals were completely degraded in soil samples within two to three days.
• Soil microbial activity was reduced by the addition of hydraulic fracturing fluids and produced water
Below – A CSIRO video outlines the research methods and findings: