CSIRO study finds little to no impact of hydraulic fracturing on groundwater, waterways, soils or air quality

CSIRO’s Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) has released new research into the impact of hydraulic fracturing activities on air quality, water and soil.

The three-year study, Air, water and soil impact of hydraulic fracturing (HF) in the Surat Basin, Queensland, measured the impact of hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as fracking, at six coal-seam gas wells operated by Origin Energy in Queensland’s Surat Basin region.

This is the first time that a study of this kind has been undertaken in Australia and is considered the most comprehensive local investigation into fracking operations to date. GISERA Director Dr Damian Barrett said that that the research is particularly useful for Australia:

“This new research provides valuable data about hydraulic fracturing in coal seam gas formations in the Surat Basin, Queensland. Previously, the only information about hydraulic fracturing was from overseas studies in quite different shale gas formations.”

To assess the impact of hydraulic fracturing in the region, GISERA monitored groundwater, waterways, soil and air quality samples prior to, during and after hydraulic fracturing operations. Results from the study found that:

  • Hydraulic fracturing had minimal to no impact on air quality.
  • No detectable impact on nearby groundwater bore quality, water samples or soil was found.
  • At CSG well sites, impacts on water quality produced from the well diminished over time, reaching below detectable limits within 20-40 days.
  • While flowback water contained some chemicals from fracking operations, levels of detected chemicals reduced to a pre-fractured state within 40 days.
  • Within two to three days, any detectable biocides or geogenic chemicals were completely degraded in soil samples.
  • Current water treatment technology is effective in removing hydraulic fracturing chemicals and naturally occurring chemicals to within water quality guidelines.

Results provide accurate and region-specific scientific insight that will be used to inform further research and fracking operations in Australia.

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt believes the new research will be used to inform CSG development and policy and should pave the path for further investment in research across Australia:

“Reports like the one released today confirm the steps taken by the industry to protect the local environment are working and I am hopeful will attract more resources companies to consider investing in CSG and other unconventional gas developments.”

Above all, results from the study will address community concerns about the impact of hydraulic fracturing in coal seam gas on the environment in the Surat Basin region and inform future research.

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