The bubbling in the Condamine River near Chinchilla was most likely naturally occurring coal seam methane and not linked to coal seam gas mining, Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps said today.
Anti-CSG campaigner Drew Hutton, who helped to shoot a video on the river west of Brisbane, said there were several stretches of river where furious bubbling was happening, each stretch about 30 to 40 metres long.
Mr Hutton linked the bubbling on Origin Energy’s CSG mining activities in the area.
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The state government yesterday sent liquid natural gas investigators to the site, a fishing spot known locally as the “coal hole”.
Origin Energy has four test wells in the area, but none were producing CSG and there were no coal seam gas pipelines in the area.
“The LNG Enforcement Unit began investigations after a landholder raised concerns about the possible causes of bubbling gas in the Condamine River about six kilometres downstream of Chinchilla weir,” Mr Cripps said.
All those wells are cased and not part of a production field and there are no CSG pipelines in the vicinity, he said.
“Based on this information, the enforcement unit advised the landholder that the cause of the bubbles was unlikely to be CSG activities,” he said.
Mr Cripps said Origin Energy’s tests showed the methane was naturally occurring and “rising” through the geology of the area.
A spokeswoman for Mr Cripps said the “historical experience” from the department’s officers was that that it was not uncommon for methane to “bubble up” in part of the river.
Origin Energy today said methane has been leaking into the Condamine River for “more than 100 years”, with locals saying methane gas had been rising in the spot for at least 30 years.
In this particular area, the underlying coals which contain natural gas were much closer to the surface than was normally the case, Origin said.
“We are confident that the seepage apparent in the Condamine River does not result from our activities,” the company said in a statement.
“Origin’s nearest gas well infrastructure comprises four pilot wells one kilometre away from the occurrence.
“These wells have never been brought into operation, have never produced gas and have never been fracture stimulated.”
Origin said checks had been conducted on the wells, which confirmed no gas has been detected in or around the wells and there was no integrity or environmental issues.
Mr Cripps said he was disappointed anti-CSG groups appeared to be using this incident to push a political agenda.
“Speculation about the actual cause of bubbling gas in the Condamine River based on limited information is unhelpful and irresponsible and does not contribute to informed commentary on this industry,” he said.
Origin Energy said one of the local landholder liaison groups had a member who went fishing in the area who let Origin Energy know.
The company said they had long been been aware of the issue, which was subsequently raised with the Lock the Gate Alliance.
This afternoon, Mr Hutton said he had not gone public before discussing the methane leak with hydrologists and called on Origin Energy to publicly release the documents proving there was no leak from their test wells.
“(The hydrologists) all told me there was a good chance the extensive leaks were linked to the de-watering of the coal seam aquifers and possibly fracking opening up pathways for the methane,” he said.
“There is only one sure way to arrive at the truth of all this and that is for Origin to release its data for independent assessment.”