Government bans BTEX use in Coal Seam Gas Sector

Published Wednesday, 04 August, 2010 at 12:38 PM

Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and Minister for Trade
The Honourable Stephen Robertson

The Queensland Government has moved to ban petroleum compounds containing benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, commonly referred to as B-TEX, from use in coal seam gas (CSG) operations or ‘fraccing’.

Minister for Natural Resource Mines and Energy, Stephen Robertson, said the emerging CSG to LNG industry has the potential to generate thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment for Queensland.

“But our number one priority is the health and safety of the community and the environment,” Mr Robertson said.

“We want to make sure we strike the right balance between environmental sustainability and economic growth.

“I have already sought and received assurances from industry that these chemicals are not currently being used.

“But further to that, to ensure the protection of the community and the environment is our commitment to legislate to ban them from ever being used in Queensland.

‘The message is very clear - no one is allowed to use these chemicals in the extraction of CSG.

“I will also be writing to all companies involved in CSG extraction to advise them of the new regulations and my expectation that the current non-use of B-TEX chemicals will continue until such times as new legislation is in place.

“Queensland has a rigorous mining approvals and Environmental Authority process but to ensure this process continues to address new questions that may be raised by changes within industry technology, government must adapt to these processes.

The Government will use the existing head of power in the Environmental Protection Act 1994 to require the Department of Environment and Resource Management to refuse any application for new coal seam gas activities that involve the use of B-TEX chemicals to fracture the coal seam.

The Government will also move to amend the Environmental Protection Act 1994 to include a provision that ‘deems’ a new condition on all existing coal seam gas environmental authorities.

Fraccing involves pumping fluid at high pressure into a coal seam to fracture the seam and allow gas to flow readily into gas wells, although the vast majority of gas wells do not need to be fracced.

“In Queensland, fraccing fluids are commonly 99 percent sand and water. Around 1 percent is made up of additives: typically widely used chemicals including sodium hypochlorite, hydrochloric acid (both used in swimming pools), cellulose (used to make paper), acetic acid (the active part of vinegar) and small amounts of disinfectants.

“It is estimated that since 2000, around five per cent of coal seam gas drilled in Queensland have been fracced, although this proportion is expected to increase as CSG production increases,” Mr Robertson said.

CSG companies are required by law to provide daily bore logs to the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) and DEEDI had requested operators to provide it with the results of any fraccing and CSG water ponds sampled to date.

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