Landholders FAQs

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What are fugitive methane emissions from the CSG industry and how are they measured and controlled?

Historical evidence from coal rich areas in Queensland, such as the Surat and Bowen Basins, shows that natural gas seepages from the landscape existed prior to the development of the current coal seam gas industry.

The Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) is conducting a greenhouse gas footprint project to detect and measure methane seeps in the Surat Basin to provide a baseline of methane emissions on a regional scale. This data set will be used as a benchmark to compare changes in methane concentrations over time as coal seam gas production increases in the Surat Basin.

Emissions of methane from physical infrastructure (e.g. well heads, processing equipment and pipelines) and from operational losses are known as 'fugitive' emissions. Fugitive emissions by their very nature are often difficult to measure directly. An initial study (Day et al. 2012) of fugitive emissions from the Australian CSG industry estimated fugitive emissions at between 1.3 to 4.4% of gas production. Research is continuing to develop better methodologies in estimating these fugitive emissions and their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Day et al. (2014) studied fugitive emissions from 43 CSG production wells across Queensland and New South Wales. They found that the average fugitive emission rate from all sources on the well pads was about 0.02% of total gas production.

A key focus of industry and regulation is gas well integrity to ensure the design, construction, operation and maintenance of gas wells will maximise gas production and minimise the level of fugitive emissions.

Additional reference material

Phase 1: GISERA. Characterisation of Regional Fluxes of Methane in the Surat Basin, Queensland

What are landscape gas seeps and why do they occur?

Landscape gas seeps are naturally occurring

Historical evidence from coal rich areas in Queensland, such as the Surat and Bowen Basins, shows that gas seeps from the landscape are natural and pre-date the development of the coal seam gas industry.

CSIRO research into gas seeps in Queensland

The Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) is currently undertaking three research projects under the Greenhouse Gas Footprint portfolio in the Surat Basin. The projects include research on the Characterisation of Regional Fluxes of Methane in the Surat Basin to detect and measure landscape gas seeps. Gas seeps from sedimentary basins containing coal deposits are commonplace around the world where the coal deposits are located at, or relatively close to, the surface. Natural connectivity created by cracks and faults in the geological strata above these coal seams may provide the pathway for coal seam gas to escape to the atmosphere.

The research being undertaken by GISERA will determine a regional baseline of methane gas seeps for comparison purposes over time as coal seam gas production increases. The project was designed to be undertaken in three separate phases:

Phase 1: A Review and Analysis of Literature on Methane Detection and Flux Determination

In this phase, a literature review of existing remote and ground based sensing methodologies for detecting and quantifying natural methane gas seeps was undertaken. This phase of the project was completed in December 2013.

Phase 2: A Pilot Study of Methodology to Detect and Quantify Methane Sources

In this phase, field trials were undertaken to test the range of remote and ground based sensing methodologies identified in Phase 1. The preferred method identified through these trials was the use of two fixed monitoring stations, one located to the southwest of Chinchilla and the other located to the northeast of Chinchilla, coupled with a suitable inverse model. This phase of the project was completed in May 2015

Phase 3: The Continuous Collection of Methane Seepage Flux Data (ongoing)

In this phase, the preferred method from the Phase 2 trials was operationalised. CSIRO are collecting data from the two fixed monitoring stations near Chinchilla. Each station continuously measures air quality data, ambient methane concentrations and local meteorological data. This phase of the project will continue for a period of three years, with the final report on the regional baseline of methane emissions in the Surat Basin due to be released in early 2018.

Gas seeps and water bodies

Landscape gas seeps are largely undetectable without the aid of specialized analytical equipment, because methane gas is both odorless and colourless. The exceptions to the rule, however, are the rare cases where there is a water body intercepting the pathway between the coal deposits and the atmosphere. In these cases, the gas seeps become evident as bubbles in the water.

Condamine River Gas Seeps: The most well known case of gas seeps in Queensland are those observed in the Condamine River near Chinchilla. There have been several formal investigations into the Condamine River gas seeps following concerns raised by landholders and the community that they may be caused by the CSG industry. The investigations include:

  • In May 2012, the LNG Enforcement Unit (now the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy) was contacted by a landholder about bubbling observed in the Condamine River. After completing an investigation of these concerns, the LNG Enforcement Unit released their results in December 2012 in a report titled the Summary Technical Report - Part 1 Condamine River Gas Seep Investigation.
  • Origin, on behalf of the onshore gas industry, commissioned the Norwest Corporation to conduct an independent investigation into the gas bubbling observed in the Condamine River. The Norwest Corporation released their report, titled the Condamine River Gas Seep Investigation: Technical Report, in February 2014. This report identified several factors that may be contributing to the gas seeps - including the underlying geology, natural events such as drought and flood cycles, and human activity (e.g. withdrawing water from stock and domestic bores and coal seam gas wells). The Norwest report also included recommendations to undertake further studies to determine the possible geological mechanisms and pathways which may explain the phenomenon. Origin is actively following up on these recommendations and their progress can be tracked on the Australian Pacific LNG website.
  • An independent scientific review of the Norwest Corporation and the LNG Enforcement Unit technical reports was coordinated by Dr Geoff Garrett, Chief Scientist to the Queensland Government, in order to gain additional confidence that the work completed met a high scientific standard.

The Chief Scientist was responsible for selecting the members of the review team. The team comprised four eminent scientists with expertise covering the areas of petroleum/reservoir engineering, geology, environmental chemistry and ecotoxicology and aquatic ecology.

This review found that the studies had been carried out in a rigorous fashion, following sound scientific methodologies with well documented results. It also found that the conceptual model developed by Norwest was rigorous in the way it identified the data gaps and provided recommendations for future work.

What are the different types of natural gas in Queensland and where are they found?

Conventional and unconventional petroleum resources

Petroleum resources are distinguished as 'conventional' or 'unconventional' based on the differences in the methods of extraction. Conventional petroleum resources are oil and gas reserves found in concentrated pockets that form as a result of underground geology that allows the oil and gas to accumulate in one spot. The method of extraction involves drilling a single vertical well and pumping the gas out.

Unconventional petroleum resources are oil and gas reserves found dispersed through low permeability and low porosity rock formations, including sandstone, coal and shale. The extraction of oil and gas in these types of reserves may involve using either multiple vertical wells and/or vertical wells in combination with horizontal or directional drilling.

Note: Hydraulic fracturing is a technique used to increase the volumes of gas extracted from both conventional and unconventional wells, although it is most frequently used when drilling unconventional wells.

Types of unconventional gas

Australia has vast resources of unconventional gas including coal seam gas (CSG), shale gas, and tight gas. Currently, only coal seam gas is being developed in Queensland.

CSG production in Queensland

Queensland has two basins currently producing CSG, the Bowen and Surat basins. A number of other basins have potential and are currently being explored.

For further information about CSG production in Queensland, refer to the Queensland Government website Petroleum and coal seam gas.

In Queensland, a petroleum resource authority is required under the Petroleum and Gas (Production & Safety) Act 2004 to explore for and produce gas.

What are the potential impacts of onshore gas industry operations on agricultural land?

Types of impacts

The construction and installation of onshore gas industry infrastructure (e.g. gas wells, pipelines, access roads, laydown yards), by virtue of the project area footprint and the heavy machinery involved, may cause localised environmental disturbance, including soil degradation, contamination and the introduction of invasive species.

Protection of agricultural land

In Queensland, agricultural land is protected under environmental and regional planning legislation.

One of the purposes of the Regional Planning Interests Act 2014 is to manage the impacts of resource activities on areas of regional interest and to manage the coexistence of these resource activities and other regulated activities with highly productive agricultural activities. An area of regional interest defined under the Act is called a strategic cropping area. This is an area containing strategic cropping land that is highly suitable for cropping because of a combination of the land's soil, climate and landscape features.

A priority agricultural area is an area of regionally significant agricultural production that is identified in a regional plan.

The purpose of identifying priority agricultural areas and strategic cropping areas is to ensure that resource activities in these areas do not hinder agricultural operations. They must not result in a material impact on a priority agricultural land use. The assessment criteria in the Regional Planning Interests Regulation 2014 provide prescribed solutions for managing impact.

Read this fact sheet for more information on the Regional Planning Interests Act.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, the Department of Environment and Science may require financial assurance as a condition of an environmental authority. Considerations include the degree of risk of environmental harm being caused or that might reasonably be expected to be caused by the activity and the likelihood of action being required to rehabilitate or restore harm to the environment caused by the activity.

Soil impacts

For a discussion of impacts on soil in the Surat and Bowen Basins, refer to Vacher et al (2014), Quantifying the impacts of coal seam gas (CSG) activities on the soil resource of agricultural lands in Queensland, Australia. (PDF 1.02 MB)

This paper examines the importance of quantifying the different impacts that CSG activities have on soils in order to better inform the development of gas industry guidelines to minimise impacts to the soil resource on joint CSG-agricultural lands.

The Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) undertook a study of farms in the Surat Basin: The effects of coal seam gas infrastructure development on arable land. Project 5: Without a trace (Final report) (PDF 1.42 MB). The aim of this study was twofold:

  1. To assess the extent of damage to agricultural soil caused by the various elements of CSG development, and
  2. To estimate the likely impact of soil compaction, caused during the establishment of CSG infrastructure, on crop productivity.

Weed management

Callinan, B. (2014) Agriculture, Big Business and the Gas Fields: Practical Tools for Weed Hygiene at the Mega-Scale refers to a range of measures to prevent weed spread. These measures include landholders' practices; legislation; and weed hygiene procedures adopted by the onshore gas industry.

Landholders can help prevent weed spread by regularly cleaning vehicles and equipment, ensuring weed hygiene declarations accompany seed stock and fodder, adopting quarantine procedures before introducing new livestock and maintaining pastures in good conditions. They can benchmark their weed status and establish risk management practices, ideally prior to any significant gas activity on their property.

The Land Access Code, made under the Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004, imposes mandatory conditions concerning the conduct of authorised activities, including petroleum authorities, on private land. One of the mandatory conditions (section 15 of the Code) is to prevent the spread of a declared pest while carrying out authorized activities. A declared pest is defined under the Biosecurity Act 2014 and can also be an animal or plant declared under a local law to be a pest.

Callinan (2014) discusses weed prevention strategies developed by the onshore gas industry as part of standard operating procedures. These strategies help to find collaborative weed management solutions with other industry partners and to guide biosecurity management planning, hygiene management planning and practices and land access agreement negotiations.

What dispute resolution options are available when negotiating agreements between landholders and onshore gas companies?

There's a range of options available to help you reach agreements if negotiations with gas companies become challenging.

These options are outlined on our dispute resolution options webpage or you can download a fact sheet here.

The Land Court of Queensland provides further information on the dispute resolution options they provide, including a panel of qualified convenors who can help resolve disputes without the need of a hearing.

For dispute resolution regarding potential breaches after these agreements are in place, either party can contact the Land Access Ombudsman.

What is CSG water and how is it managed?

What is CSG water?

The groundwater that is removed from coal seams in order to produce CSG is known by several different names, including CSG co-produced water, CSG produced water, CSG associated water and CSG water.

CSG water contains natural salts and other minerals in varying quantities. All groundwater extracted to produce CSG in Queensland is treated to ensure that it meets the quality standards and environmental guidelines for its intended re-use purpose.

In Queensland, the majority of the treated CSG water is re-used for crop irrigation, livestock watering, industrial manufacturing or dust suppression. Treated CSG water is also re-injected into groundwater aquifers for future use. The treatment and re-use of CSG water is strictly regulated.


The Coal Seam Gas Water Management Policy 2012 (PDF 154 KB) encourages CSG operators to manage CSG water in a way that benefits regional communities and reduces impacts on the environment.

The Environmental Protection Act 1994 imposes requirements on the management of CSG water, including its use, treatment, storage and disposal.

The Waste Reduction Recycling Act 2011 recognises that CSG water, which is a 'waste' under the Environmental Protection Act 1994, may have beneficial uses. This Act prescribes the process whereby CSG water can be re-classified as a resource and used for a beneficial purpose.

Until recently, the beneficial use of CSG water needed to be approved by the Queensland Government under a Beneficial Use Approval. While some of these approvals are still in effect until they expire, recent legislative changes have introduced ‘End of Waste’ approvals and codes that allow for produced water to be used for beneficial purposes.

The main drive for this change was to reduce the regulatory burden on a bi-product (e.g. CSG water) that fits the criteria to be deemed a ‘resource’ instead of a ‘waste’. For produced water to be deemed a resource, trials must be conducted to demonstrate it meets a set of requirements. If the produced water meets these requirements and is deemed a resource, further regulatory approvals for its use would not be required.

For more information on the End of Waste framework, visit the Department of Environment and Science's website.


Case Study

The Chinchilla Beneficial Use Scheme is an example of CSG water being put to a beneficial use. It is a contractual arrangement between Queensland Gas Company (QGC) and SunWater, a bulk water infrastructure developer and manager.

QGC treats CSG water from its gas fields in the Surat Basin at its Kenya Water Treatment Plant south-west of Chinchilla. The Kenya plant treats and recovers approximately 90% of the raw CSG water and transports it by pipeline directly to landholders and to the Chinchilla Weir on the Condamine River, where it is mixed with river water and supplements water reserves available for agricultural use and public consumption.

What is the effect of CSG extraction on the availability of groundwater in aquifers?

During the process of producing CSG, groundwater is extracted in order to reduce water pressure in the coal seams to allow methane gas to be released from the coal. When water is extracted from a CSG well, groundwater pressure may fall in the area surrounding the well.

Holders of a petroleum tenure (gas companies) are required to manage these impacts on groundwater availability. In areas of concentrated gas development where there are multiple petroleum tenures, and more than one tenure holder working adjacent to each other, the chief executive responsible for administering Chapter 3 of the Water Act 2000 may declare a cumulative management area (CMA). 

The Office of Groundwater Assessment (OGIA) is an independent entity responsible for preparing a cumulative assessment of impacts of CSG water extraction, and develops integrated regional management arrangements. These assessments and management arrangements are set out in an underground water impact report (UWIR).

Click here for more information on UWIRs and CMAs.

Aquifer connectivity refers to the ease with which groundwater can flow within and between geological formations. Research shows there is low aquifer connectivity (low vertical permeabilities) between the Surat, Bowen and Galilee Basins, and that water flow between the formations in these basins is extremely slow.

Water flows from areas of higher water pressure to areas of lower water pressure. When this hydrological system is disturbed by activities such as groundwater extraction, the water pressures underground and the direction of water flow may alter, which in turn may result in a change to aquifer water levels.

For more information on aquifer connectivity, refer to our information on groundwater systems or The University of Queensland's Centre for Coal Seam Gas website.

For more information about water resources and protection for private water bore owners, visit our water pages.