Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Coal Seam Gas gets cool reception in wine country, despite compatibility claims

Coalbed methane is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds.  When they talk about coal mines exploding due to methane, that's coalbed methane.  In some places the phrase used is "Coal Seam Gas" and is abbreviated as CSG, as is done below.

Apparently some wine-makers in Australia are up in arms about CSG operations near their wineries.  Some politicians in Australia are claiming CSG and wine-making can operate side-by-side, but the wine-makers say no-way.  They explain it this way: “One, we don’t know the impact on the agricultural land and almost everything we have seen so far is not good; second, it’s going to damage the tourism industry which is a lifeblood of wine growing areas worldwide; third, what do we do with the salt water?”

The Wikipedia for CSG explains some of the wine-makers concerns.  A CSG well is a steel pipe going underground into a coal seem, perhaps 100-1500 meters deep.  Methane and "produced water" come to the surface through the pipe.  The "produced water" had been underground, is released along with the methane gas, and often the water contains chemicals like sodium bicarbonate or chloride.  Hence, the wine-makers ask "what do we do with the salt water"?

Apparently normal practice is to put the water in evaporation ponds, use it for irrigation, or pour it into streams.  One hopes they check the salinity before pouring the water onto the land, because saline water would render the land unable to grow crops.  Apparently the evaporation ponds sometimes break, which would tend to damage neighboring lands.

Top Winemakers Refute Griner CSG Claim

Broke, NSW -- 10/31/2011 -- Two of the Hunter Valley’s leading winemakers, Bruce Tyrrell and Brian McGuigan, have strongly refuted comments by the former NSW premier, Nick Greiner, that coal seam gas production and winemaking can operate side by side.

“The two industries cannot co-exist on current information,” Mr Tyrrell said.

“One, we don’t know the impact on the agricultural land and almost everything we have seen so far is not good; second, it’s going to damage the tourism industry which is a lifeblood of wine growing areas worldwide; third, what do we do with the salt water?”

Mr McGuigan has written to a Senate committee stating that “coal seam methane gas fields and viticulture are NOT compatible land uses”.

Their remarks are the latest development in the controversy in the Hunter Valley over whether coal seam gas activity should be allowed in vineyard areas.

Mr McGuigan’s letter to the Standing Committee for Rural Affairs and Transport follows evidence given to its inquiry by Mike Moraza, a general manager with AGL Energy.

Mr Moraza had quoted Mr McGuigan as a reference point for there being no land use conflict. Mr McGuigan’s company manages the Spring Mountain vineyard on behalf of AGL Energy.

Spring Mountain was purchased by AGL Energy from Mr Greiner when AGL found that no farmers in the Broke and Bulga areas of the Hunter Valley would grant them access to their respective properties.

ln Mr Moraza's evidence, he said, “To coin the words that Brian McGuigan used, the vineyard has never looked as good as it has under AGL’s ownership."

In his letter, Mr McGuigan asserts that the current vineyard owned by AGL is not in an operating gas field, that the property merely has some exploration on it and that AGL is spending money on the vineyard to make sure it looks in excellent condition.

Spring Mountain’s previous owner, Mr Greiner, has been quoted in the Australian Financial Review as saying “The evidence from my old vineyard suggests that wine and gas can co-exist.”

Media contact:
David Browne
Wilkinson Group
02 8001 8827 / 0432 550 995

Source: Hunter Valley Protection Alliance


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