About coal seam gas
Coal Seam Gas (CSG) is a form of natural gas (primarily methane) that can be used in the same way as conventional gas, and is used to generate electricity.
CSG is found in coal seams, typically 300–600 meters underground. CSG is held in place by water pressure and is extracted via wells drilled through the coal seams. When the water pressure is reduced, natural gas is released from the coal. The gas is then processed to remove water and piped to compression plants for transportation via gas transmission pipelines to power stations, industry and domestic gas customers.
To ensure that CSG industry developments are undertaken in a responsible and sustainable manner, the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (RET) works closely with state and territory governments, who have primary responsibility for regulating the CSG industry.
Recent CSG announcements
On 14 December 2012, the Standing Council on Energy and Resources (SCER)-comprising Australia’s energy and Resources Ministers announced the beginning of the consultation phase of the Draft National Harmonised Regulatory Framework (the Framework) for CSG. The consultation phase, open for submissions to the Framework from the public, will be open from 14 December to 28 February 2013.
The Framework is a guidance and reference tool for Australian federal, state and territory government regulators for the CSG industry. Its purpose is to provide a suite of national and global leading practices to consider and implement in the assessment and ongoing regulation of proposed projects for CSG exploration and production. The Framework is an important demonstration that governments are listening and responding to community concerns and are working together to strengthen regulation and ensure there is a balance between protecting human health, social and environmental values and achieving economic outcomes. Consistent with this approach, the Framework also acts as a guide to industry on what leading practice regulation is, providing greater certainty and consistency for CSG operators.
The concerns and issues raised by the community regarding CSG development in Australia to date have warranted the attention of governments and industry. As a result, in December 2011, governments through SCER responded by agreeing to develop the Framework. The work program was selected to address issues of community concern highlighted above through the following core areas:
- well integrity and aquifer protection
- water management and monitoring
- hydraulic fracturing
- chemical use.
The work program and public consultation information has been publicly released and is available on the Standing Council on Energy and Resources website. Click the link to a PowerPoint presentation that outlines the 18 leading practice principles that should be applied to CSG developments as well as the work program and expected timeline for the Framework.
In November 2011, the Australian Government announced that it will provide $150 million to establish an Independent Expert Scientific Committee (IESC). Following the work of the Interim IESC, on 27 November 2012, the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, the Hon Tony Burke MP, announced the membership of the IESC. The role of the IESC is to provide advice to governments in Australia on CSG activities and large coal mines where they may have a significant impact on water to ensure that all environmental approvals and licensing decisions are based on the most rigorous and objective scientific evidence available.
The Australian Government has entered into arrangements with relevant state governments, including the New South Wales Government, so that the advice of the IESC will be taken into account in their decision making. Information about the panel, process, advice and projects is available on the website of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
The following Australian Government websites provide further information on CSG in Australia:
For more information about Coal Seam Gas, email CSG@ret.gov.au