Improving monitoring of emissions from coal seam gas production

Tuesday, 16 April, 2013

The Gillard government is moving to improve measurement and reporting of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere from coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and production.

A discussion paper released today sets out proposals to introduce new CSG-specific measurement and estimation methods into Australia’s greenhouse gas reporting framework. This is latest step in the continuing review of Australia’s system of accounting for greenhouse gas emissions.

It responds to industry, expert and community feedback on methods for calculating the amount of ‘fugitive’ emissions of methane released during CSG extraction and production. Methane is one of the most potent of the greenhouse gases which are building up in the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

The discussion paper proposes improving existing methods for directly measuring emissions from core CSG extraction and production activities by drawing on the latest approaches adopted in the United States. Under the proposals, it would be mandatory for CSG facilities using hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) technology to use direct measurement rather than alternative methods for estimating vented fugitive emissions from well completions and workovers.

The new direct measurement methods would be available from 1 July 2013. They would become mandatory for facilities using fracking from 1 July 2015.

Australia has one of the most comprehensive systems for measuring, reporting and verifying greenhouse gas emissions. The government is committed to refining this system to ensure climate change policies, including carbon pricing, are environmentally effective and economically efficient.

The Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIICCSRTE) has been reviewing existing methods for measuring CSG emissions for several months. This has included commissioning a review of international best practice in CSG emissions estimation, considering submissions from stakeholders, and commencing a research project with the CSIRO to measure emissions from CSG production operations in NSW and Queensland.

The discussion paper, ‘Coal Seam Gas: Enhanced Estimation and Reporting of Fugitive Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the NGER Measurement Determination’, has been released for stakeholder comment. In addition to the proposals for direct measurement of emissions from CSG well completions and workovers, it foreshadows further changes to emissions estimation methods, including:

  • developing Australian-specific emissions factors for CSG well casings and leaks from production and from processing facilities, using data from the joint DIICCSRTE-CSIRO research project;
  • conducting research into methods for estimating ‘diffuse’ CSG emissions beyond gas wellheads;
  • developing a new method for estimating emissions from decommissioned CSG wells.

The discussion paper can be found here.

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