Frac ‘n Fraud Down Under: Origin Energy execs kept aquifer contamination secret for more than 1.5 years, knew CSG (CBM) wells leaking into aquifers. Are Origin Energy CSG (CBM) wells contaminating Condamine River with ‘intensifying’ methane bubbling too?

Condamine River’s mysterious bubbling ‘intensifying’ by Mark Willacy, February 14, 2016, ABC News

2016 Methane bubbling in Condamine River 'intensifying'

PHOTO: Scientists are trying to identify the cause of methane gas bubbling in the Condamine River. (ABC News: Scott Kyle)

[What’s taking so long? Avoidance-style study to let companies continue destroying families, communities, aquifers and rivers? They’ve been studying the migrating methane four years now.]

Landholders in Queensland are calling on the State Government to find the cause of methane gas bubbling in a major river, which they say has intensified in recent months.

The so-called methane seeps in the Condamine River near Chinchilla were reported in 2012, triggering a series of investigations.

But the Government has told the ABC that it does not have sufficient information to identify the cause of the seeps. [If one does not look, or looks intentionally the wrong way, one does not find]

Professor Damian Barrett, the CSIRO’s lead researcher into unconventional gas, has been monitoring the Condamine gas seeps.

He confirmed to the ABC that the bubbling had intensified.

“There have been changes in the flux of methane through the river over the past 12 months,” he said.

The ABC visited the most prominent methane seep in the river about six kilometres west of the Chinchilla weir, observing large, concentrated bubbles rising to the water’s surface.

“From what I’ve visually seen since the first videos back when they were originally found, they were just minor bubbles in particular locations,” Helen Bender, whose family owns two properties near the Condamine, said.

“In terms of the number of bubbles along the river, both upstream and downstream, [it] is increasing.”

A 2013 report by scientific analysis firm Norwest Corporation outlined several “scenarios” which could be contributing to the bubbling in the river.

These included natural events such as drought and the recharging of aquifers after floods.

Human activity such as coal seam gas (CSG) operations and water bore drilling were other possible contributing factors.

“We know that methane is coming to the surface along a fault line, a very small fault line that occurs and intersects with the river,” said Professor Barrett, who is also the director of the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance, a partnership between the CSIRO and the CSG industry.

“We know that the methane that is bubbling in that river is varying in time and the reason for that — while it is unknown — could be perfectly natural.”

I think there’s a lot missing in those [methane seep] reports which we need to know the answers to now, because the bubbles are getting worse as the CSG activities continue.
Helen Bender, landholder

Origin Energy, which operates CSG wells in the district, is monitoring the bubbling in the Condamine.

“I have to question if Origin is doing the ongoing monitoring, why isn’t more of an independent person doing the ongoing monitoring so that there’s some real transparency with what’s actually happening?” Ms Bender said.

Western Darling Downs landholder and anti-coal seam gas activist John Jenkyn said the bubbling had worsened since the arrival of the CSG industry.

“I think [it’s] the de-watering. As [the CSG companies] take all the water out of the wells I presume the gas has found the easiest route out of the ground, which happens to be in the river. So up she comes,” he said.

A Queensland Government report released in December 2012 found that the cause of the bubbles was “unlikely to be determined in the short-term, and that a long-term approach to find more science-based answers to the phenomenon was needed”. [To let the frac harms continue?]

“I think there’s a lot missing in those [methane seep] reports which we need to know the answers to now, because the bubbles are getting worse as the CSG activities continue,” Ms Bender said.

A spokesman for Queensland’s Department of Natural Resources and Mines confirmed that there was “currently insufficient information to identify the cause of the gas seeps” and that further investigation was warranted. [Two choices: 1) Nature did it and; 2) Let’s study it forever so that we never have to say industry did it]

“Geological complexity and the requirement to gather and analyse surface and subsurface data make this a long-term investigation,” the spokesman said. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

“A terrible terrible day.” George Bender, CSG (CBM) impacted farmer, Darling Downs, Queensland, killed himself. “Not only does this community have to live with this scourge of CSG coal seam gas mining on a daily and nightly basis, now they have to deal with one of their most-respected and most-loved community members taking his life.”

High US methane emissions blamed on leaks; Harvard fracking study show industry methane leaks far higher than official estimates, rings methane alarm bells in Australia

Doctors raise alarm over toxic coal seam gas leaks, Gas Industry Attacks Scientists After Research Finds Triple The Normal Levels Of Methane At Australian Gas Fields

Abandoned CSG wells ‘time bombs’

2012 05 03: Bubbling river blamed on Coal Seam Gas (Coal Bed Methane)

Video has emerged of a major gas leak on the Condamine River in Queensland that conservationists say could be dangerous methane leakage from a nearby coal seam gas project. Anti-CSG campaigner Drew Hutton, who helped to shoot the video on the river west of Brisbane, said there were several stretches of river where furious bubbling was happening, each stretch about 30 to 40 metres long.

The leak site is close to a CSG [CBM] project from energy giant Origin. The company said in a statement that underground coals that stored gas were closer to the surface than was typical. ‘‘Local knowledge’’ said gas seepage on the Condamine went back at least 30 years, it said.

… Mr Hutton said the gas could explode if it reached a certain concentration. … “Our gas metres shows that it’s methane. It’s dangerous.”

Of Origin, he said: “They know about it. They’ve been out there. This has been happening for weeks and weeks. I’m not ruling out that it could be naturally caused but the chances are pretty minimal. It’s over too long a stretch of the river and there’s too much of it.”

He called on Origin to released all the data it had on the area. CSG [CBM] projects reduce the groundwater, which can cause gas to “migrate” underground and emerge in other places. “When you draw down the water, you open up the possibility for pathways to be established,”

Greens mining spokeswoman Larissa Waters said the leak showed the need for a five-year moratorium on CSG projects – a motion the party had put to the Parliament without success. “Methane leaking into drinking water is a disaster,” [Emphasis added]

Reports of Origin Energy cover-up of oil leak into Australia’s most significant aquifer prompts calls for urgent inquiry by Lock the Gate Alliance, February 08, 2016

“It’s scandalous for oil and gas companies to allow such monumental failures, risk vital national water resources and people’s livelihoods and then cover it up from regulators and the community.

“We know already that regulation of CSG mining in Qld has been an abject failure….”

Origin Energy executives knew of oils leaks into acquifers by Ben Butler, The Australian, February 7, 2016

*Origin Energy executives raised concerns about oil leaking into
underground aquifers from its wells in Queensland more than a year and a
half ago, documents obtained by /The Australian/ show.*

The revelation appears to ­contradict repeated statements by Origin to
/The Australian/ that it did not know of any oil leaks into ­aquifers in
Queensland’s Surat Basin, which sits atop Australia’s largest
underground water supply, the Great Artesian Basin.

The revelation comes amid mounting speculation by analysts that Origin
will write down the value of its separate APLNG coal- seam gas joint
venture, also in the Surat Basin, as the energy sector continues to
suffer from relentlessly low oil prices.

The documents show the problem was raised at a meeting, attended by more
than 20 executives including general manager of production John Rodda,
to discuss abandoning Origin facilities in Queensland, Western Australia
and Victoria.

“Oil contamination in aquifer” was identified as one of the ­“issues,
barriers, risks and uncertainties” at Surat, according to minutes of a
“project framing workshop” held on May 22, 2014 and obtained by /The
Australian/.

However, it appears the meeting decided the problem was “outside scope”
and not to be addressed as part of the shutdown project. [Why bother, when one can engage in fraud and cover it up? Fixing frac’d aquifers is expensive. Shareholders would whine loudly]

The meeting heard that Origin’s large number of unused wells were an “increasing risk” and expensive to maintain.

“Business is being consumed by increasing risk & incidents, large burden on limited resources,” the minutes record.

Doubts were raised as to whether Origin had set aside enough money to cover the shutdown cost, with executives told that “financial abandonment provisions appear to be inadequate”. [As appears rampant across oil & gas fields globally. Why clean up, when regulators don’t regulate and politicians enable the endless cover-ups, frauds and law violations?]

The poor state of the Surat oil and gas wells was also a major topic of
conversation. Attendees were told that 24 of 76 wells surveyed “have a
form of leak at wellhead (valves or seals)”.

This does not necessarily mean any oil or gas escaped, as all but one
well had at least one valve still working.

The meeting was told Origin did not know exactly how many wells in Surat
had been plugged and abandoned, or “P&A’d”.

“The number of Surat P&A’d wells is thought to be in the region of 200
wells, but not confirmed,” executives were told. Dealing with those
wells had “been firmly out-of-scope” of the decommissioning project,
“but recently the potential requirement for ongoing inspection and
monitoring has been raised”.

Attendees were also shown photos of rusty wellheads, including one
apparently tied up with string.

Oil leaking into an aquifer was among allegations made against Origin by
former compliance manager Sally McDow in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit
she has filed against the company.

Asked about the allegation on December 30, an Origin spokeswoman told
/The Australian/: “There has been no known oil leak to an aquifer in the
Surat fields.”

An Origin spokesman repeated that statement in response to further
inquiries last week.

“Origin has robust compliance processes and rejects any inference to the
contrary,” the spokesman said. [So What? Having a process is meaningless and does not prevent non-compliance – just ask Encana.] “We engage openly and regularly with
regulators via dedicated teams and we are confident that there has been
no breach of an external compliance reporting obligation.”

In the Federal Court lawsuit, which sparked investigations by mining
authorities here and in New Zealand when revealed by /The Australian/ in
December, Ms McDow alleges Origin has a culture of covering up health,
safety and environment breaches.

However, this week New Zealand’s Taranaki Regional Council, which had
been looking into Ms McDow’s claims of gas leaks at Origin’s Kiwi wells,
said it found no evidence to support the allegations. [Did the regulator look, or pretend to look?  Regulators appear to engage in fraud more than companies do, to keep the frac and CBM harms from the public and landowners bearing the pollution brunt]

In its defence, filed with the Federal Court this week, Origin denied Ms
McDow’s claims of bullying and a cover-up of compliance failures.

The company denied Ms McDow’s redundancy in October was a sham and said
it was the result of a company-wide restructure that cost 800 jobs,
including seven in the compliance team.

It admitted that an internal compliance audit produced in December 2013
and relied on by Ms McDow to support her allegations “identified
shortfalls against the Origin internal standards and identified action
items for achieving those standards over time”. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

2011 08 03: Australian Petroleum Association: Coal seam damage to water inevitable

The coal seam gas industry has conceded that extraction will inevitably contaminate aquifers. “Drilling will, to varying degrees, impact on adjoining aquifers,” said the spokesman, Ross Dunn. “The intent of saying that is to make it clear that we have never shied away from the fact that there will be impacts on aquifers,” Mr Dunn said.

2014 08 28: Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Contamination Confession: Coal bed methane operations contaminate water resources

Yet CAPP’s Alex Ferguson says many worries about water quality are based on past operations involving coal-bed methane — shallow deposits in closer proximity to groundwater. These did occasionally contaminate water resources, he says. In some of the more infamous instances, affected landowners could light their well water on fire.

2014 08 28 CAPP's Alex Ferguson admits coalbed methane contaminated well water, in some more infamous cases, landowners could set their water on fire

Alex Ferguson was appointed Commissioner and CEO of the BC Oil and Gas Commission from 2007-2011 ]

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