The environmental credentials of cleaner-burning natural gas have been further boosted with new research from the CSIRO confirming fugitive methane (CH4) emissions from Australian coal seam gas (CSG) well completions to be low.

The report, Methane Emissions from CSG Well Completion Activities, was prepared for the Department of the Environment and Energy. It measured methane emissions at nine well completions and one well workover at two CSG sites in Queensland.

The measurements found total methane emissions from well completions were low, ranging from virtually zero to a maximum of 373kg CH4 for the entire completion. No further emissions were detected on completed wells after they had been fitted with the wellhead.

While the sample size is small, these actual measurements obtained by the CSIRO provide further support for the veracity of estimating methodologies used under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme (NGERs)[1].

The Chief Executive of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), Dr Malcolm Roberts, said the research would help address concerns about fugitive emissions from CSG production.

“This is another important and rigorous study from the CSIRO whose previous research in 2014 found that fugitive emissions from CSG wells were only a tiny fraction (0.02 per cent) of CSG production,” he said.

“While the study notes there are a number of other areas requiring further investigation, it is significant that these initial findings based on actual measurements show emissions from well completion operations are relatively small, and in some cases negligible.

“It continues the range of reports in recent years that have shown that the environmental concerns about CSG raised by various activist groups do not stand up to scrutiny.

“Natural gas has around 50 per cent fewer emissions when used in power generation than traditional energy sources. There are substantial environmental benefits associated with expanding natural gas production, including CSG production. 

“Developing Australia’s substantial natural gas resources will have significant environmental and economic benefits, both in Australia and in the region.”

Dr Roberts said it was important the Australian Government’s energy and environmental policies encouraged the development and use of natural gas as a cleaner-burning energy source.