Fig 2. Water bore drilled in 2003, well before “fracking” used in oil/gas exploration/development was used in the area. Note the warnings about gas emissions.
Further to our article entitled “How Dependent is Society on Oil?” this article summarises the current importance of natural gas in our daily lives. In addition, it explores the undeniable fact that, as an energy source that is cleaner than oil (and coal!), natural gas is poised to become even more important on a global basis.
As summarised on the APPEA website: “Of all fuel types, gas offers the best combination of abundance, cleanness, affordability, reliability and flexibility. Gas is used to generate electricity and to power appliances such as heaters and stoves. It is also important in many industrial processes, including making fertilisers, glass, steel, plastics, paint, fabrics and many other products.”
Thus, in a similar way to oil, even though most natural gas is used as fuel, it is also an important raw material for many products we use daily. Furthermore, even though most explorers prefer to discover oil when they drill (mainly because gas is harder to get to market), more gas than oil is discovered these days. Therefore, as gas plays an increasingly important part in producing the products we use in our daily lives, is more prolific in most geological layers than oil and is environmentally preferred to oil (and coal!), natural gas will play an important part in our lives for many decades to come.
Unfortunately, in recent years, natural gas has become synonymous with Coal Seam Gas (CSG) exploration & development and/or “fraccing” (or, more precisely, hydraulic fracture stimulation), even though the gas produced is the same. Much of the concern around these types of exploration/development has been based on ”fugitive” methane emissions and/or contamination of groundwater in aquifers. This is despite the fact that gas (and oil) has been known to seep naturally in many regions of the world for thousands of years. At times, lightning strikes would ignite the seeping gas, leading to significant myth and superstition by early civilisations. In 500 BC, the Chinese realized they could use these “burning springs” to their advantage and used pipes made out of bamboo to transport gas to for use in extracting salt from sea-water.
Ironically, explorers are often attracted to areas that exhibit natural seeps because this represents proof that the geological systems in the area are generating petroleum.
It is therefore extremely disingenuous for many environmental groups and even the producers of the Gasland movies, to claim that all fugitive emissions and contamination in these areas are caused by the oil & gas industry. Interestingly, there is now evidence from organisations like the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and Energy in Depth that the Gasland movies seriously distorted the facts. For example, in 2008, 2 years before the Gasland movie was released, COGCC investigated the landowners’ water well depicted in Gasland and determined the water was flammable because the well had been drilled into a naturally occurring gas reservoir. Thus, the example used by Gasland had nothing to do with the gas industry.
Similarly, claims in Gasland Part II, that there was no evidence of “flaming water bores” before gas drilling commenced in Parker County, Texas, are disproved by photographic evidence. The image below was taken in 2005, roughly 5 years before Range Resources commenced drilling for gas in the area.
Further, below is a photograph of a well drilled in 2003 in the same region. There is so much naturally occurring methane in this region’s underground water supply that public advisories warn residents of “flammable gas.” It is rather unusual that the producers of Gasland II and various activist environmental groups have conveniently ignored this very important fact.
The Norwood Resource (TNR) understands that there are many areas around Australia where similar methane seeps occur. The Surat Basin, now a very active CSG exploration and development area and the Carpentaria Basin, which has only sporadically been explored due to its remoteness (but methane has been detected in many bores in the region) are two examples.
TNR is concerned that, if one considers the facts and science, the fear and confusion that has been spread among the Australian community is unnecessary. Furthermore, TNR calls on those groups that seek to distort the facts, to participate in a balanced, open and transparent debate on natural gas and the environment. There are two sides to this story: the public is entitled to hear the one based on the facts and science.