Australian fossil fuel sites releasing climate-heating gases

According to inquiry conducted by environmental organizations in Queensland and New South Wales, methane gas, which contributes to global warming, is escaping or being vented from more than one hundred different locations across thirty-five fossil fuel installations.

The Australian Conservation Foundation gave the non-profit organization Clean Air Task Force, which is based in the United States and works on a global scale, a commission to employ innovative monitoring technology to determine whether or not methane was escaping from coal mines and gas facilities owned by energy conglomerates Santos and Origin as well as pipeline business Jemena, the fossil fuel sites.

When it is released into the atmosphere, methane is powerful greenhouse gas that has over 80 times the influence on the global heating of carbon dioxide over a period of 20 years.

On Tuesday, both organizations disseminated infrared films that, according to them, demonstrated the leakage of gas from a variety of mines and other facilities. The organizations that produced the movies stated that they visited 80 different locations around Australia over the course of four weeks in order to get a comprehensive view of the country’s fossil fuel infrastructure.

They reported the following findings:

There are at least 25 obvious leaks or venting spots along the main Jemena pipelines in the Darling Downs and in the area of New South Wales between Newcastle and Wollongong.

There are at least ten leaks or venting locations in coal seam gas wells that are owned by Origin.

At least four of Origin’s seven coal seam gas wells in the Pilliga/Bibblewindi forest in New South Wales are leaking methane into the environment.

Two of the firms cited in the lawsuit have already responded to the allegations by denying them. After the allegations were made earlier this week, both Origin and Santos stated that they had investigated their gas wells and discovered that there were no leaks. According to Santos, the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority carried out a standard leak detection assessment one month ago and also detected no leaks from fossil fuel sites.

The researchers did not in any way imply that the businesses were engaging in criminal behaviour or that they were intentionally concealing pollution. They expressed their concern that there was a widespread issue that was not being adequately regulated.

They stated that the films provided more evidence to support the findings of prior research, which discovered that the amount of methane released into the atmosphere was greater than reported. The Australian federal government may have underestimated the amount of methane produced by coalmines and gas extraction by more than 60 per cent, according to data that was just made available by the International Energy Agency. It is believed that approximately a third of the increase in average world temperatures of 1.2 degrees Celsius that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution was driven by methane.

Annica Schoo, who is the main investigator for the Australian Conservation Foundation, stated that the organizations had utilized thermal equipment in order to locate the gas leaks. She stated that it demonstrated the necessity for the Albanese government to implement a plan that required corporations to accurately monitor and report on methane emissions, install technology to reduce methane emissions and rehabilitate abandoned mines.

“The plan should require companies to find and fix leaks from fossil fuel sites as soon as they can,” she said. “The plan should require companies to find and fix leaks.” Because the laws are so lax and underreporting is so common, we simply do not know how much climate-warming methane is escaping from coal and gas in Australia. This is due to the fact that the regulations are so lax.

The nation of Australia has committed to reducing its methane emissions by thirty per cent in the ten years leading up to the year 2030.

According to the researchers, the movies were captured with optical gas imaging technology. This method makes use of a filter in order to visually record the infrared radiation emitted by methane.

An infrared thermographer working for the Clean Air Task Force named Théophile Humann-Guilleminot commented that the methane leaks he observed in Australia were “on another level” in comparison to the breaches he had seen in seven other nations. He stated that the Talinga and Condamine gas fields owned by Origin were particularly shocking to him.

“In times of heated debates on energy cost, seeing all of this gas wasted and supercharging climate change is deeply worrying,” he said.

In response to the allegations that the facility was leaking and venting, according to a spokeswoman for Santos, the business conducted tests utilizing thermal imagery and gas detection technology. They stated that it was obligated to undertake independent inspections at each of its gas infrastructure locations in New South Wales every six months, with the most recent one taking place in May, and that no leaks were found.

The ACF has offered a limited explanation of its methodology, and its conclusions have not been repeated by regulators or certified independent experts, according to the spokesperson for the organization. “There is no evidence that the ACF’s work is based on sound science,” the spokesperson added.

According to a spokesman for Origin, the company discovered no leaks at any of its sites on Tuesday. They stated that some of the company’s older wells used gas to power its instrumentation, allowing them to open and close valves. As a result, minor volumes of gas were vented. According to what they stated, gas was measured as well as reported in accordance with the requirements of the federal law, and this older form of well equipment was being upgraded to use “compressed air or electrification to reduce this operational emissions source.”

The corporate spokesman stated that the organization planned to minimize its operational methane emissions over the course of the next three years by renovating facilities to reduce venting and flaring, as well as replacing equipment and devices with more advanced and energy-efficient technology.

School stated that not all leaking or venting that was recorded would be methane but that the responsibility for knowing what was being released into the atmosphere rested with the gas firms. Natural gas is composed of methane, the most abundant component.

Zali Steggall, an independent member of parliament, stated on Tuesday in the federal parliament that methane leaks and active venting might render all of Australia’s climate pledges null and void. Among these climate commitments is the safeguard mechanism, which is intended to reduce emissions from big industrial sites.

She questioned whether or not the government would pass legislation to “properly measure and stop leaking and venting of methane.” She directed her question toward the minister of climate change, Chris Bowen.

Bowen expressed his agreement that methane was “a very important issue” and stated that the government was taking steps to guarantee that measurements of methane were accurate.

He stated, “It’s not a simple matter, but we agree there is a matter to be looked at,” which is an indication of the complexity of the situation. To guarantee that the measurement of methane is as accurate as it can possibly be, I have forwarded references to various bodies, including the Climate Change Authority. A genuine process is well on its way to completion, and I will provide an update to [parliament] once I have gotten additional guidance on the matter.

On Tuesday, Jemena did not provide a comment in response to requests for a reaction to the charges.

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