Shale gas 'risk' to aquifers

Shale gas 'risk' to aquifers


News
HISTORY REPEATING: Agriculture advocate Anne Daw at an abandoned core drilling site on the Nulty property, Kingston, where Western Mining Company explored the potential for a lignite deposit in the 1980s. Strike Energy now has the exploration licence.

HISTORY REPEATING: Agriculture advocate Anne Daw at an abandoned core drilling site on the Nulty property, Kingston, where Western Mining Company explored the potential for a lignite deposit in the 1980s. Strike Energy now has the exploration licence.

Aa

ANNE DAW grew up on her father's grazing property near Kingston, which is in the vicinity of Strike Energy's Kingston Lignite Project proposal to create synthesis gas from mined coal.

Aa

ANNE DAW grew up on her father's grazing property near Kingston, which is in the vicinity of Strike Energy's Kingston Lignite Project proposal to create synthesis gas from mined coal.

She is a member of the Roundtable for the Roadmap for Uncon­ventional Gas Projects in South Australia, and the Round Table for Health and Energy Policy in Canberra.

But Ms Daw believes the KLP and shale gas exploration in the Lower South East should not proceed because both pose an "extremely high" risk to aquifers.

"The lignite is situated between an unconfined aquifer and the confined Dilwyn aquifer, which, as I understand it, contains 30 per cent of the State's potable water," Mrs Daw said.

"The lignite and clay forms a barrier between the two aquifers."

The 1153-square kilometre petroleum exploration licence stretches north from Kingston deep into the Coorong - a Ramsar -listed Wetland of International Importance.

Mrs Daw says the Lower South East is dependent on the Dilwyn aquifer for agriculture and human activity and was already under severe stress because of prolonged dry periods.

"With just 4pc of non-irrigation dependent agricultural and cropping land remaining in Australia, it should be left exempt from mining and unconventional gas," Mrs Daw said.

"It risks our clean water and food bowl for future generations."

In her submission to the draft roadmap last year, Ms Daw outlined a number of issues that had emerged after Western Mining Corporation discovered the lignite in 1979.

Pumping tests performed by WMC in 1982 "significantly" interfered with artesian water in the area, particularly the confined Dilwyn aquifer.

"Problems included a large drop in pressure heads of bores several kilometres away, which ceased flowing (and) very slow pressure head recovery and salt was released from the sub-aquifers into the potable confined aquifer," Mrs Daw said.

"There was an immediate revelation of a direct interconnection between the Mepunga and Dilwyn aquifers."

WMC eventually relinquished its licence in 1994.

The roadmap did not include information about why WMC relinquished its mining lease.

Department for Manufacturing, Innovation, Trade, Resources and Energy executive director Barry Goldstein was aware of Mrs Daw's concerns and said the KLP was unlikely to proceed.

"My expectations are that, based on existing economics and the quality of the Kingston coals, at no time in the foreseeable future will the proponent be able to raise the money to actually do anything there," he said.

"It will be centred on economics, and that's not because it's impossible to dig coal out of the ground which is saturated with salty water, but it does mean you have to reduce the moisture content and get rid of the waste product in an environmentally sustainable way. It's also heavier to lift.

"And it's got a low calorific value to start with. It's brown coal. Everything economically is stacked against that project. I can't even foresee, with less expensive energy, it becoming a happening project."

Mr Goldstein said it was likely that WMC gave up its lease because of the technical characteristics of the coal, which "never looked like it had legs economically".

*Full report in Stock Journal, June 13 issue, 2013.

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by