The Queensland Government says it is developing guidelines in response to an August 2012 fire near Dalby fuelled by gas emissions from an abandoned coal exploration borehole.
The new guidelines will be designed to regulate the safe management of gas emissions from abandoned exploration wells.
Queensland minister for natural resources and mines Andrew Cripps said in a media release this morning that the guidelines would provide protocols for industry and government to follow when responding cooperatively to any future events.
“This agreement will ensure we have appropriate notification, response, rectification, safety and communication processes,” Mr Cripps said.
Mr Cripps said his department's Petroleum and Gas Inspectorate had responded swiftly to the August 2012 fire at Kogan to ensure there were no safety concerns for the communitym and also worked closely with industry to make the area safe, extinguish the fire and remediate and cap the historic coal exploration borehole.
“The successful management of the Kogan incident reflects the cooperative and effective response by industry and provides a model to deal with this type of incident.
“My Department is working in partnership with the mining and coal seam gas industries to deliver safe, best practice solutions for dealing with these sorts of legacy issues.
“The agreement will outline the means to access and remediate bores, and will allow government to authorise operators to remediate bores that pose a risk to the community or to employees.”
Mr Cripps said a working group comprising representatives from the Queensland Resources Council and the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association was currently considering a draft agreement, which is due to be finalised by the end of August.
Mr Cripps said the agreement would then be considered by the Gasfields Commission and other stakeholder groups to ensure community acceptance.
“We are also developing options for legislative amendments to provide certainty so that all possible scenarios including other bore types can be dealt with, and to clarify the rights and responsibilities of tenure holders to manage uncontrolled gas emissions on their tenures,” he said.
“While these types of events are few and far between and the risk they pose is generally low, it is important that there are mechanisms in place to quickly resolve any situations that arise from legacy exploration bores.”
Compliance unit exceeds targets: Cripps
Meanwhile, in another media release issued this morning, Mr Cripps said the Queensland Government unit charged with monitoring the coal seam gas industry had exceeded auditing and inspection targets in the first few months of operation under a new compliance program released earlier this year.
Mr Cripps said his department was ahead of schedule for planned community engagement and compliance inspections of CSG wells, pipelines and water bores and that four new petroleum and gas inspectors would be recruited.
“The Coal Seam Gas Compliance Unit (CSGCU) committed to inspect 250 CSG wells, 160 drilling rigs, 9 pipelines and 4 CSG seismic activities to ensure industry conducts activities in a safe manner and in compliance with Australian standards and codes,” Mr Cripps said.
“I can report that as at 30 June 2013, inspections were completed on 369 CSG wells, 154 drilling rigs, and 29 pipelines.
“Seismic activities will be inspected in the latter half of 2013 and further safety inspections of drilling operations and new pipelines will be a focus during 2013-14.”
“CSGCU officers also inspected 14 wells and seven pipelines for compliance with the Queensland Land Access Code.”
Mr Cripps said protecting Queensland’s groundwater resources was a priority.
“We committed to check and measure standing water levels in 300 water bores annually and verify the accuracy of water data supplied by CSG companies,” he said.
“To date, inspectors have conducted 181 water level measurements and made 52 analyses of water quality at water bores.
“These targets were set in the Coal Seam Gas Engagement and Compliance Plan 2013, which was released in February.
“The plan also aims to be more proactive in engaging with the community, local government and the CSG industry and to more effectively respond to landholder enquiries, issues and complaints.
“Through better engagement, communities will have a better understanding and awareness of CSG activities in their region.”
Departmental officers attended 12 landholder meetings and CSG-related regional community events during in first half of 2013.
“The CSGCU also completed 12 groundwater investigations involving landholder bores and were engaged in another six as at the end of June.
“The unit received 37 enquiries, including 10 complaints about CSG operations, and dealt with another 120 enquiries relating to bores, environmental issues, governance, water and land.”
Mr Cripps said the Queensland Government had also increased the number of Petroleum and Gas inspectors to support upstream compliance activities, including gas transmission pipelines, as the CSG-LNG industry grows.
“My department has increased the total number of Petroleum and Gas inspectors to 28 and is currently recruiting four new specialist inspectors including a Deputy Chief Inspector (Upstream), a Principal Inspector (Upstream), a Senior Inspector (Upstream) and a Principal Inspector (Automotive).
“These additional inspectors will ensure the DNRM CSG Compliance Plan continues to play a key role in achieving a balance between the interests of industry, rural landholders, regional communities and our environment,” he said.