Coal seam gas waters - their geochemical signature and potential environmental implications

Taulis, Mauricio (2010) Coal seam gas waters - their geochemical signature and potential environmental implications. In Groundwater 2010 : the Challenges of Sustainable Management, 31 October - 4 November, 2010, Canberra, A.C.T.

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Coal Seam Gas (CSG) is a form of natural gas (mainly methane) sorbed in underground coal beds. To mine this gas, wells are drilled directly into an underground coal seam and groundwater (CSG water) is pumped out to the surface. This lowers the downhole piezometric pressure and enables gas desporption from the coal matrix. In the United States, this gas has been extracted commercially since the 1980s. The economic success of US CSG projects has inspired exploration and development in Australia and New Zealand.

In Australia, Queensland’s Bowen and Surat basins have been the subject of increased CSG development over the last decade. CSG growth in other Australian basins has not matured to the same level but exploration and development are taking place at an accelerated pace in the Sydney Basin (Illawarra and the Hunter Valley, NSW) and in the Gunnedah Basin. Similarly, CSG exploration in New Zealand has focused in the Waikato region (Maramarua and Huntly), in the West Coast region (Buller, Reefton, and Greymouth), and in Southland (Kaitangata, Mataura, and Ohai).

Figure 1 shows a Shcoeller diagram with CSG samples from selected basins in Australia, New Zealand, and the USA. CSG water from all of these basins exhibit the same geochemical signature – low calcium, low magnesium, high bicarbonate, low sulphate and, sometimes, high chloride. This water quality is a direct result of specific biological and geological processes that have taken part in the formation of CSG. In general, these processes include the weathering of rocks (carbonates, dolomite, and halite), cation exchange with clays (responsible for enhanced sodium and depleted calcium and magnesium), and biogenic processes (accounting for the presence of high bicarbonate concentrations). The salinity of CSG waters tends to be brackish (TDS < 30000 mg/l) with a fairly neutral pH. These particular characteristics need to be taken into consideration when assessing water management and disposal alternatives.

Environmental issues associated with CSG water disposal have been prominent in developed basins such as the Powder River Basin (PRB) in the United States. When disposed on the land or used for irrigation, water having a high dissolved salts content may reduce water availability to crops thus affecting crop yield. In addition, the high sodium, low calcium and low magnesium concentrations increase the potential to disperse soils and significantly reduce the water infiltration rate. Therefore, CSG waters need to be properly characterised, treated, and disposed to safeguard the environment without compromising other natural resources.

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ID Code: 55160
Item Type: Conference Item (Poster)
Refereed: No
Keywords: Coal Seam Gas, Groundwater
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EARTH SCIENCES (040000) > OTHER EARTH SCIENCES (049900) > Earth Sciences not elsewhere classified (049999)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2010 please consult the author
Deposited On: 29 Nov 2012 06:44
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2012 07:10

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