Year

2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Environmental Science (Honours)

ANZSRC / FoR Code

040309 Petroleum and Coal Geology

Department

School of Earth & Environmental Science

Advisor(s)

Solomon Buckman

Abstract

Coal seam gas (CSG) is a naturally occurring gas, predominantly methane (CH4) that can be used as a fuel to generate electricity. It is found within the pores and fractures of all sub-surface coal seams, typically at a depth of 300 to 1000 metres. Advances in drilling technology have made CSG extraction more economical, leading to a significant expansion in development, particularly in the eastern coal basins of Australia and parts of the US. This rapid expansion in development has created significant concern as to possible impacts on the environment, particularly issues relating to agriculture, groundwater, and water catchments. The main environmental issues relating to CSG extraction are outlined in this thesis by analysing a range of literature relating to CSG development in the Illawarra region, south of Sydney, a region that has been extensively mined over the past 150 years and is an important water catchment for the Sydney metropolitan area. In addition to discussing exploration and production techniques such as hydraulic fracturing, an analysis of the geology and hydrogeology of the Southern Coalfield is undertaken, with particular reference to the potential impacts on groundwater and water catchments. The study also reviews the legislative framework, and looks at the global and domestic economic conditions currently driving CSG development in this country. This thesis forms an important basis for understanding the current issues relating to CSG in Australia, as well as proving local context for assessing potential impacts in the Illawarra region.

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