Australia Scientists Find Excess Greenhouse Gas Near Fracking

From LA Times

By Carol J. Williams

Environmental researchers have detected excess greenhouse gas levels near the site of Australia’s biggest coal seam gas field, prompting calls for halting expansion of hydraulic fracturing until scientists can determine whether it might be contributing to climate change.

The reported findings of methane, carbon dioxide and other compounds at more than three times normal background levels have stirred new controversy in eastern Australia over the pros and cons of boosting natural gas output by “fracking,” a process that blasts sand, water and chemicals into deep underground wells.

Researchers from Southern Cross University took mobile air testing equipment to the Tara gas field near Condamine in Queensland to measure the ambient gas content. They found more than three times the level of toxic gases than expected, based on the industry’s claim that leakage from the wellheads is “negligible.”

“The concentrations here are higher than any measured in gas fields anywhere else that I can think of, including in Russia,” Damien Maher, a biochemist who helped conduct the tests, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

The findings, though still pending peer review before publication, could influence the scope and pace of a planned expansion of coal seam gas fracking as envisioned in a white paper issued this week, environmentalists said. Development authorities in New South Wales state are weighing whether to allow energy companies to drill 66 new wells in the western suburbs of Sydney to extract natural gas through fracking.

At sites within a few miles of the Tara field wellheads, methane was measured as high as 6.89 parts per million, compared with a normal background level of about 2 parts per million, the air test results showed.

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