Thursday, 30 May 2013

Wyoming: Aftermath of a Drilling Boom

In Australia, it is the state of Queensland that has the most advanced coal seam gas industry but even here the CSG industry is still in its infancy. In the United States however shale gas projects have been developed many years earlier and some of these are at the end of their life. It gives us an opportunity for those of us in Australia to look and learn. There should be no need to, as in so many other areas for Australians to follow blindly the lead of the US and make the very same mistakes.

This article below was first published at WyoFile and republished under  the WyoFile terms & conditions.

Aftermath of a Drilling Boom: Wyoming stuck with abandoned gas wells

By Dustin Bleizeffer

The Powder River Basin coal-bed methane gas industry that drilled at a pace of 2,500 wells annually for a decade has been in sharp decline in recent years. Operators have mostly stopped drilling and are now idling thousands of wells, and perhaps thousands more have been abandoned —  “orphaned” — by operators struggling financially.

Last week, Wyoming lawmakers heard testimony that the number of orphaned wells likely exceeds 1,200 — and more will be added to the list of liabilities to the state.

State officials say they’re having difficulty measuring the exact scope of the problem due to complex record-keeping among multiple agencies. Ryan Lance, director of the Office of State Lands and Investments, told WyoFile that his staff is working through stacks of files to try to determine which operators owe money, and how much.

The Powder River between Gillette and Buffalo runs through the center of Wyoming’s largest coal-bed methane gas field. Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

In some cases, the orphaned wells devalue ranch properties, and in other cases they complicate a promise that the industry made at the onset of the play: that some wells would be transferred to ranchers for use in watering livestock on the arid high plains.

Coal strata are often aquifers in the region. In some areas, the production of coal-bed methane gas has substantially drained the coal aquifer because operators had to pump large volumes of water from the coal to get the methane gas also contained there to flow to the surface. By 2010, the industry had pumped 783,092 acre feet of water from the coals, according to the Wyoming State Geological Survey. That’s enough water to fill Lake DeSmet three times.

Only a small percentage of that water was put to beneficial use.

“There’s concern from land and mineral owners who are not getting surface use and damage payments anymore. … Money is spent on attorneys trying to recoup surface use payments,” as well as royalties, said Jill Morrison of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, a landowner advocacy group based in Sheridan.

Morrison testified before the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim Committee last week in Gillette.
Committee member Rep. James Byrd (D-Cheyenne) said that for years he and others on the committee have heard warnings about the potential for orphaned wells and unpaid bills in the coal-bed methane gas play, “and now it is happening.”

The Powder River sometimes runs dry in this arid region of northeast Wyoming. (Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile — click to view)

The Powder River sometimes runs dry in this arid region of northeast Wyoming, yet only a small portion of groundwater associated with coal-bed methane gas development was put to beneficial use. Dustin Bleizeffer/WyoFile

While some operators, such as Anadarko Petroleum Corp., are financially sound enough to plug wells that are no longer commercial, a handful of smaller operators flirt with bankruptcy and fail to conduct required maintenance on the wells, creating potential hazards to human health and the environment. Some operators have simply walked away from their coal-bed methane properties in the basin.

That leaves the job of plugging wells and reclamation to the state, which will rely on an industry-funded orphan well account to cover the cost. The task of plugging and reclaiming orphaned coal-bed methane facilities, and collecting unpaid user fees and royalties, is divided among state agencies and the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management. So far, the state agencies do not have a complete picture of the scope of the problem and the resources available to address it.

This is only the first part of this article. To READ MORE [click here]



  1. CSG: What Australia can learn from the US is an index to a series of article published in early March 2012 after a trip to the US by Rural Press reporter Colin Bettles and Fiona Simson from NSW Farmers.

    Worth while going through these articles to see the legacy of the gas industry in the US.

  2. One thing that constantly bugs me in relation to the contentious Oz CSG issues is that of depleting, as distinct from possibly contaminating, aquifers. On the latter, provided that proper procedures re drilling and casing are followed, and any 'cowboys' punished heavily, I don't see there is a fundamental issue.

    But, Depletion also gets a lot of attention, much of which I think is mis-guided.

    It is a well known fact that fracking of coal seams (and to a lesser extent, shale beds) releases a lot (albeit variable) amount of 'co - water' trapped along with methane in the seam. This water has never been a remotely significant source of bore water to farmers / graziers. The latter comes from porous aquifers (generally sandstone), whereas coal deposits bearing captured water and methane, until fracked and opened up to allow lateral movement and collection of those captives, are non - porous in a practically relevant sense.

    Handling, treatment and use of co - water is an issue, but like correct drilling techniques, it can be handled. Looking forward, I see no fundamental reasons why co - water cannot become a valuable rural resort in its own right.

    Cheers al

  3. Al, as to water quality you have hit the nail on the head with the word variable. The quality of water is highly variable and that is largely due to how long the water has been in the aquifer, at what depth and what it has been exposed to. So the water that had been more readily available to landowner bores is often "fresher" water but the fracking process allows for release of captured water which often can be of a lower quality, some of it even with far more contaminates than just salt which seems to be the only focus to what should be removed from the water.
    Then we get to the treatment of this water which the industry standard is reverse emosis (spelling? filtration, (RO). RO is a glorified desalination plant. It's inefficiency is evident by the CSG or the Sunwater not being prepared to guarantee the quality of the water when it is offered for the "beneficial use" to landowners.

    1. Obviously, as with most things in life Dale, the situation is far from perfect at the moment. The process you refer to, Reverse Osmosis with polymeric molecular filters, in a sophisticated form is capable of removing everything. Singapore largely lives on reverse osmosis - treated, recycled and conventionally cleaned up sewerage water and if you have ever been to / through Singapore, you would have drunk it!! The water is so pure that to restore it to 'public taste', minor quantities of dissolved solids have to be added back!

      Now I know, that is probably as far from Joe Blogg's so - called RO plant on a dirt turkey nest wall as rocket science is from paper aeroplanes, but the potential is there.

      Farm bore water has normally come from aquifers at much shallower depth than the CSG - bearing coal seams. There are other dissolved solids for sure in CSG co - water, and the internet can provide lots of analyses. The actual quantities are invariably much, much smaller than salt (NaCl)concentrations, and some are very valuable. Such as MgCl2, magnesium chloride, the component in my much - loved 'Karma Rub' for joint, tendon, muscle pain relief :-)

      Cheers al

    2. Al, I'll reply separately to why RO can't take everything out.
      Firstly you wrote, "Farm bore water has normally come from aquifers at much shallower depth than the CSG"
      In the Surat Basin there would be just as many, if not more, farm bores at a greater depth than the coal seams.

    3. I'll await your further comment as indicated Dale, and I am not just trying to be a 'hair shirt' I assure you.

      This morning, on generally pink ABC Radio National's deep pink Fran Kelly's breakfast show, a brief report on the issue between CSG developers and farmers was aired from Roma.

      It was very balanced, and much less damning of CSG extraction than I certainly would have anticipated. Positive aspects like the growth in Roma's population and general wealth were featured, along with the well known issues of opponents relating to water, etc.

      The wrap up made the point that there was obviously a very big difference in the way that CSHG was being viewed in predominantly grazing areas (Roma), and crop farming areas. (Cecil Plains, not all that far away). According to the report, property owners, at least in that area, are now receiving pretty handsome up front payments, and annual access payments.

      That surprised me, as everything I have heard from the ABC on the topic up until now has been extremely drew Hutton / Lock the Gate supportive.

      Cheers al

  4. Hasn't the Qld Water Commission and Arrow Energy in its own EIS warned of likely serious depletion of bore levels in the gas fields and possible adverse effects on the Great Artesian Basin from all the combined gas projects? That was my understanding.

    1. Well John, I don't see how that can be. Just think about it. If it's 'logical', it's logic of a different type to what I have lived with.

      Have you ever heard of a farmer, town water supply or whatever drawing water from a buried (stratified) coal seam? I haven't. That's what fracking is all about, to get the otherwise entrapped methane, and water, out. I would think that producers would be happy to have a lot less water extracted by their process it that were possible, and would definitely not want more. Unless my recollections of things that be in mining have gone totally pear-shaped in my dotage (not impossible :-), the only time the extractors need to introduce water is when they are fracking, at least until the new waterless (gel) technologies take over. Once the wells are producing, that's it.

      I know, the argument will come up again, "What about any aquifers they drill through on the way to the CSG seam? Couldn't that leak? As I have said to Dale, that shouldn't happen if proper and simple enough drilling and cement casing procedures are followed. Dale has pointed out that in the Surat Basin, seams being extracted are often above aquifers accessed by farmers for their needs. If the coal seam is immediately above the aquifer, and in fact it has been for eons the 'impermeable layer' holding the artesian water in place, I think I can see concerns along the lines of "Could not co - water, containing dissolved salts etc leach down into the aquifer and potentially contaminate it?" Or "Could not valuable aquifer water escape upwards into the now partially porous coal layer?" I am not an expert, but I would have thought that as the induced fracturing in the coal seam is horizontal, not random, and the depths at which fracking is carried out is carefully controlled, this should be manageable.

      Perhaps Dale might like to ask our mutual friend Viv Forbes for a comment?

      Cheers al

  5. Not being directly involved I'm not as up with it as Dale would be, Al, but still pretty sure the depletion of aquifers is mentioned in both the Qld Water Commission and Arrow Energy EIS (they were directed to comment on the likely combined effects rather than the earlier three projects now under construction which just referred to their own gas needs. I don't know if it's logical but I'm sure it is mentioned in their reports and probably posted on here in earlier articles - drops of up to 3 metres in some farm bores were mentioned I think. Not sure if Viv would be up to the latest studies on this either. It was one of the reasons the Qld Water Commission was set up. You could probably Google their, or Arrow's reports.

    1. The performance of farm bores has always been notoriously variable and with the suckings out from the Artesian Basin(s) over many decades, before CSG was even dreamt of, dry holes and sadly decaying windmills have long been a common if sad rural scene, surely?

      I'm not wanting to draw any dubious conclusions, but why have Ford so meekly submitted to public immolation as the useless devourer of taxpayer support funds, to no effect? Hmmmm ........ could there be behind the scenes pressures associated with some of these conundrums??

      Cheers al

  6. There are that many different issues being brought up that its hard to know where to start. Al, I was getting a bit of a deja vu feeling with your questioning and yes we are going over some of the ground we have covered before in comments to this previous discussion, PRA: Water management for the CSG industry

    Now JohnM has rightly pointed you in the direction of the Qld Water Commission report into the Surat Cumulative Management Area.
    The report gives the prediction that is accepted by the CSG companies and by government that there will be impacts on landowners bores. Landowners not only accept the reports findings but are fearful that far more farmer bores will be impacted.

    Yes Al, there are farmer bores into the coal streams, especially in the Walloon coal measures where in some places this water is of acceptable quality. These bores have already dropped considerably and most likely will be completely depleted. Other bores within the gas fields are also measurably dropping which are not in the coal measures.
    Why are aquifers being affected outside the coal measures I hear you ask? I believe you may have to rethink your concept of how impermeable the different layers are and start to question what is the level of connectivity. If there is connectivity what has in the past kept these different quality waters apart, well the answer perhaps lays with an equability of pressure between the aquifers.

    There was a lot of territory covered in a few sentences in that last paragraph and a lot more in depth explanation is needed. The scientists involved with the Qld water Commission finally had come to the conclusion that there is connectivity. Research will reveal how much.

    Finally I'll have to contest the statement of farm bores being notoriously variable. This is only the case with very shallow bores into small underground streams. Bores that have been in deeper more reliable aquifers have been very stable to what depth the water comes up to. Farm bores only extract what is needed at that point of time & with livestock the demand is often low.

  7. That all sounds plausible Dale but it's an interesting topic and well worth the revisit on the bores/ Artesian Basin topic. Diverging views expressed in a friendly manner can only be good for the site and our general knowledge. With regard to the earlier references to reverse osmosis (RO) in a perfect system I believe it would remove all impurities, and Singapore may well have their technology down to a fine art but we have seen examples in Sydney where ecoli from a sewerage outfall made it thru a desal plant into the domestic water supply, and the one at Tugan on the Gold Coast is notorious for not operating properly. All valves, seals etc have to be in top condition for it to work.
    I had some experience managing a business for about 10 years which had a small commercial RO plant capable of producing a few thousand litres a day of (fairly) pure water. It had a gauge to show the very small level of impurities which did make it past the filters. But the impurities don't just disappear or evaporate. Our system had an automatic reverse flush which cleaned the surface of the RO membrane so it would continue to function efficiently.
    So where did the impurities end up? Well in our case where we were treating already treated (chlorinated) town water, and in relatively small quantities, it was legally diverted into the sewer. But if you had huge RO plants treating many thousands of litres you would need to flush the waste into holding ponds and then physically remove it somehow.

  8. "Diverging views expressed in a friendly manner can only be good for the site and our general knowledge"
    Fully agree with this statement of yours JohnM and Al I'm only too happy to answer your questions.

    "treating already treated (chlorinated) town water, and in relatively small quantities
    This is a situation where RO can be used very successfully but as you conceded it is a huge leap away from large quantities of water with variable, at times large amounts of contaminates and impurities.

  9. Now before I answer about the effectiveness of using RO on "produced water" to enable "beneficial use", I will list all the contaminates that can possibly be in produced water. I must stress that not all the water at every location is automatically low quality and that not all these contaminates exist in the majority of wells. But a differing number of these contaminates can be present.
    It is a long list so not the most stimulating reading.

    Calcium (Ca II)
    Magnesium (Mg II)
    Potassium (K I)
    Sodium (Na I)
    Chromium (Cr III)
    Chromium (Cr VI)
    Ammonium [NH4] +
    Iron - ferrous (Fe II)
    Iron - ferric (Fe III)
    Bicarbonate as [CO3] 2-
    Carbonate as [CO3] 2-
    Hydroxide as [CO3] 2-
    Fluoride F -
    Chloride Cl -
    Bromide Br -
    Iodide I -
    Cyanide [CN] - (total)
    Sulphate [SO4] 2-
    Thiosulphate [S2O3] 2-
    Sulphite [SO3] 2-
    Sulphide S 2-
    Acetate [CH3COO
    Aluminium Al
    Antimony Sb
    Arsenic As
    Barium Ba
    Beryllium Be
    Boron B
    Bromine Br
    Cadmium Cd
    Caesium Cs
    Chromium Cr
    Cobalt Co
    Copper Cu
    Gallium Ga
    Indium In
    Iodine I
    Iron Fe
    Lead Pb
    Lithium Li
    Manganese Mn
    Mercury Hg
    Molybdenum Mo
    Nickel Ni
    Rubidium Rb
    Selenium Se
    Silver Ag
    Strontium Sr
    Sulphur S8 (elemental)
    Thallium Tl
    Thorium Th
    Tin Sn
    Titanium Ti
    Uranium U
    Vanadium V
    Zinc Zn
    Ammonia NH3 as N
    Carbon dioxide CO2 (free & total) (sampled via full (air-excluded) glass bottles)
    Hydrogen sulphide H2S (UHS)
    Oxygen O2
    Methane CH4
    Ethene C2H4
    Ethane C2H6
    Propene C3H6
    Propane C3H8
    Butene C4H8
    Butane C4H10
    Major Nutrients
    Phosphorus (total) as P
    Phosphorus (reactive)
    Nitrogen (total) as N (TKN and calc.)
    Nitrate [NO3] - as N
    Nitrite [NO2] - as N
    Organic Carbon
    Xylenes (BTEX)
    Monocyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (MAHs) (esp. BTEX
    methyl benzenes)
    Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
    Phenolic compounds
    Ethyl acetate
    Vinyl acetate
    tert-Butyl alcohol
    Minerals (non-ionic)
    Silica SiO2 (total dissolved)
    Silica SiO2 (reactive, eg. silicates)
    Microbial assays
    1. Heterotrophic plate count (HPC) 72h @ 22°C CFU/100mL
    2. Heterotrophic plate count (HPC) 48h @ 37°C CFU/100mL
    3. Fastidious HPC 72h @ 22°C CFU/100mL
    4. Hydrocarbon utilising bacteria (HUB) 14d @ 28°C CFU/100mL
    5. Naphthalene utilising bacteria (NUB) 14d @ 28°C CFU/100mL
    6. Sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB) 14d @ 28°C MPN/100mL
    7. when indicated, Methanogen 28d @ 37°C MPN/100mL

  10. Lots of cheap, DIY - scale so - called 'reverse osmosis' units have almost nothing in common with the real thing John, other than using the name. To my knowledge (which cheerfully, is far from infallible / complete), the only really legit RO plants in Oz are those that form the pointy end of the large desal plants, led by our world's larges white elephant down here on the Gippsland coast. Desalination via RO by the way is a significantly more expensive process than Singapore - style conversion of recycled sewage (common in Australia, for marine discharge and use on public lawns and gardens, etc) to the totally safe, potable stage. Toowoomba as we will all recall nearly had a small, sophisticated potable water RO plant to treat conventionally recycled sewage, but that of course was hit on the had as the result of a " poo factor" campaign. I am no expert on portable RO units for local use, and no doubt some are already available that can do a good job.

    (I should mention, for interest, that one of my friends, who has a science doctorate, headed up the Singapore program at the time they decided to become self sufficient via RO, after Malaysia's Mahatir in a fit of pique jacked up their imported water bill by a huge amount).

    Going out now, so I will come back to natural mineral and salt content of 'conventional' bore water.

    Cheers al

    1. Al,
      Dalby west of Toowoomba has had a reverse osmosis de-salination plant since 2004.

      Here is the link to the story by the plant operator, Dalby Town Council.

    2. Peter, that looks like a great little plant, and Perry Proud has done a commendable job in writing it up. Good to see that Dalby is to proceed with a second desal plant, to treat co - water from CSG fields. Friends, I think I could rest my case here! :-) One giant on the coast down here, with the world's largest capability, is of course not producing commercially as we don't need the water, and its cost is phenomenal.

      John queried above the extent to which the Roma area is involved in 'The Big Plan', exporting out of Gladstone. Answer? Hugely, John! And that's why it is so interesting that there is apparently such a broad degree of happy grazier participation.

      Re the RO process, this is at its most sophisticated, in recycled sewage to potable water. There are no such plants operating in Australia. The job of sieving out dissolved salts of the sort Dale listed in his post from saline feeds is much more demanding (and costly, in terms of membrane costs, and power costs to maintain operating pressures and flows) than is sewage recycling, once the 'raw material' has gone through the preceding conventional clean-up stages. This is because they are removing organic solids, including bacteria, while desal plants have to remove much smaller molecular solutes.

      Whatever, as Peter's post demonstrates, water typical of CSG co-water is already being successfully (and economically) processed, just down or up the road for many of you, at Dalby!! :-)


    3. Hang on Al, you have made giant leaps to a conclusion based on very little evidence. Peter gave you a link to a 2004 document in which it clearly states that amongst the other water supply sources that Dalby town has a "Desalination plant which produces 1.7 megalitres per day from deeper, but higher yielding, saline bores"
      There is no mention of sourcing water from any coal seam gas produced water until the final page which says, "Dalby Town Council is now planning to build another reverse osmosis desalination plant to treat coal seam methane water, which is a waste product from local gas fields."

      Now go the Western Downs Regional Downs web site and check out the 2013 position. Scroll down the Water Treatment Processes page until you come to Desalination Treatment Process. Read it through & you will find mention of the same plant & the saline bores but no second plant sourcing CSG "produced" water. There is however some neat diagrams about how RO works.

      I know for a fact that the WDRC, which is also my local council, canned the idea of using CSG "produced" water because it was too expensive to treat the water. Energy costs are high.

      Then we have this one (I'll refrain from using an adjective) "apparently such a broad degree of happy grazier participation."
      This is based I take it from an earlier comment above from ABC National Fran Kelly breakfast show "According to the report, property owners, at least in that area, are now receiving pretty handsome up front payments, and annual access payments."
      Audio link available on [this page]

      Al, Maaaaaaate, it was a SANTOS guided whirlwind 24 hour tour from Roma to Gladstone. The first part of the interview was about Gladstone & if he wishes JohnM can reply about that. But note that even the cherry picked single cattleman still had concerns about water.

      Sorry the case isn't at rest yet. :)

  11. As you can see in my last comment there is a lot more to underground water than just water and there is a lot more contaminates than what the Qld government is prepared to recognise; currently they only talk about salt.
    Not that they are all bad but an RO plant has to cope with them all going through & it is the Cations that cause the most problem with what quantity can go through a RO plant because they block up the membranes. It is actually beneficial to have calcium & magnesium in water but because it goes through an RO plant & gets taken out the treated of water after going through an RO plant has to be "reconstituted" by adding these two back in.

    Couple of interesting accounts are that firstly at Spring Gully north of Roma they are cleaning enough silver out of the gas & water to make it a by-product of the operation. It's no silver mine or of any great amount but apparently its worth picking out.
    There has been a small gasfield NE of Wandoan for more than 15 years and the steel pipes were being eaten out in no time flat. Turns out there was a "bug", (a microbial or bacteria life form) that was brought to the surface & the steel pipes apparently was an acceptable food source. So the bugs have to be killed off with a biocide at the earliest opportunity.

    These bugs are interesting, there are many types of microbials, roughly 35 sulphate bugs alone. Microbials can stay dormant for a very long time down in the depths in which they dwell and then can be set off when a food source presents itself.

    Bacteria can also 'grow through' the RO membranes, resulting in bacterial
    growth in the post-filter water storage and distribution system.

  12. The small plant I had experience with was a commercial RO plant I believe would be using the same membrane technology as the bigger plants and as I said it had an auto reflush activated by a timer a few times a day from memory. It also had an inline commercial water softener plant and prefilters to remove as many minerals and solids as possible before they reached the RO membrane but fiortunately the whole system was fairly easy to maintain on that scale as nothing had to be physically or manually removed, unlike the quantities of mineral salts, metals and some toxins listed as present in the gas fields water. What do they propose doing with the residues? Also corrosion has been a big factor with the Gold Coast desal plant. Gladstone Regional Council has been installing a similar unit at Agnes Water against the wishes of many residents. It was foisted on the GRC council by the Bligh gpvernment under threat they would receive no subsidies for conventional bore water supply.
    Peter may know how that is progressing I haven't had a chance to research it.

  13. Here is a reference to the Roma gas fields on the miningoilgas website which says there are about 70 small gas wells there now dating back to the 60's and the supply to Brisbane. If there are lots of happy graziers, how many would have been associated with the old domestic supply system and how many with the new export expansion to Gladstone where the pipeline and LNG plants are still under construction? 70 is a very small proportion of the hundreds of wells now proposed throughout the Surat and Bowen Basins:
    Project: Roma Operations
    Commodity: Coal Seam Gas
    Ownership: Santos (100%)
    The Roma coal seam gas operations lie near the township of Roma in Queensland. Santos-owned assets in the Roma area comprise about 70 small to medium gas fields and several small oil fields. The fields are gathered via about 500 kilometres of flow lines with the assistance of 16 nodal compressors and flow to ML1A meter station dehydration units. Here, water and condensate separation is undertaken prior to the flowing into the Wallumbilla LPG plant for compression.
    Gas from the Churchie gas field and fields in the Mosaic-owned Silver Springs area flow into the same facility for processing.
    Gas production is then sent via compression and a 440km pipeline east to Brisbane (via the Roma-Brisbane pipeline) or via a 520km pipeline north to Gladstone (via the Queensland Gas Pipeline).
    The first gas field was discovered within the Roma township in 1900 by the Hospital Hill-1 exploration well, which was the first natural gas discovery in Australia. This gas was later used to light the street lamps of Roma for 10 days and periodically evaluated for commercial production prior to the 1960s.
    Sustained gas production began in 1961 with the Timbury Hills-2 well supplying a gas-fired generator in Roma which represented Australia’s first commercial gas project. First production to Brisbane began in 1969. The first coal seam gas production in Australia commenced in 1988 from a single well in the Pleasant Hills field. The well continues to produce coal seam gas from Walloon Coal Measures.

    1. The older wells in the Roma area are conventional gas not coal seam gas. There has been a long relationship (on the main good) between SANTOS & landowners in the Roma area. SANTOS was recognised as one of the better companies to deal with here in Qld but in the last few years they seem to have had a brain snap & made decisions that have puzzled me placing jeopardy the previous good relationships with landowners.
      Conventional gas is a lot different to CSG; the CSG companies like to create a false impression that CSG has been around for a long time & therefore must be ok, when in fact what has been around is conventional gas.

    2. In 1966 I went with a crew from a company that I worked for at that time to Roma to prepare one of the huge underground tanks that existed at the Powerhouse at that time.
      There were a number of these large underground tanks at the site and during the war they were used to store fuel for the military.
      Our job was to descale the bottom of the inside tanks because they had started to rust because of water getting in.
      When they were treated inside they were then used for the water supply for a time.

      We chipped all of the rust off and painted the inside with tar epoxy. At that time there was still some fuel in some tanks and what was interesting was that there was a gas well right outside of the main door into the powerhouse which was one of the first viable natural gas supplies used commercially in Australia.

      The intention was to use all of the existing fuel and then convert the power station to natural gas from that well, which I believe did actually happen.

      I believe that the gas was not CSG but petroleum based gas.
      There were many service stations on the Downs that sold this gas for vehicles. I believe that it was similar to but not actually LPG that we use still today. It was not CSG, nor was the gas that flowed to Brisbane and Gladstone in the early days.

      I have been unable to find any information at present, but there was a man who built a small oil refinery at Roma out of bits and pieces. He accessed his crude from Moonie and supplied quite a few people and businesses in the area.
      The Government took exception to someone producing fuel at a fraction of the cost of the large refineries and soon shut the refinery down, probably because they were missing out on the excise.
      If anybody knows anything about this refinery I would be very interested.

  14. Typo in my last post "about 70 small gas wells" should be "gas fields" but now I have listened to the Fran Kelly interviews and there was only the one farmer involved. It sounds like some of the media tours I've been on many years ago to the Roma fields, Bowen Basin mines, Wepia etc, where the companies involved naturally portray themselves as the good guys. In some cases they are obviously trying to do the right thing and as Al says the compensation figures referred to by the ABC's on the ground reporter in that interview did sound fairly generous but what price can you put on water supplies and good agri land? My main objection to all this is not to the idea of an export gas industry but that so many huge projects were rushed thru without proper study on cumulative effects, whereas the prudent thing would be to have approved one (Curtis LNG plant and gas fields projects) and ensure all necessary environmental protections were in place AND adhered to before rushing to approve another and another

  15. Conventional / unconventional, all depends on to whom you are speaking, and their expertise. Classic geological theory has it that 'conventional oil' formed in marine basins, where detritus got buried, heat and pressure came into effect and oil (and gas) formed, which migrated to capped and tailed porous sedimentary layers. The Russian (and Scandinavian) Abiotic Oil theories developed over the past 70 years have led to much support for an additional basis of oil hydrocarbon formation.

    Staying with 'classical theory', coal deposits are considered to have developed in on - land sedimentary basis from dead flora (as distinct from animal) aggregations which became covered, heated and pressurised etc etc. In my opinion, all the gas reserves identified over the past 100 years and more in the Roma district are coal seam related - ie all CSG in origin. Some has remained trapped in seams, some has migrated, aided by local and natural fracturing events, to sandstone (or similar) reservoirs.

    John, Santos is certainly the original player in gas around Roma, but if you check further you will find that it is far from the only one, and that others (eg Origin)have established many good working relationships in the area.

    I do agree with you and Dale though, that too much, too soon without the proper expertise and controls in place, is never a good way to go about any major project. Which is not an excuse for featherbedding or poor productivity practices on our projects. One day, if you have a moment, have a look at how long it took the Yanks to build the Empire State :-)

    Cheers al

    1. "Some has remained trapped in seams, some has migrated, aided by local and natural fracturing events, to sandstone (or similar) reservoirs."
      Al, I wouldn't know classic geological theory if I fell over it but I do believe what I was referring to conventional is what you referred to as gas that migrated to reservoirs.
      Anyway it required different & a less intrusive for the farmer techniques to extract it.

      This was the gas that was used at the power station that Peter was taking about and was sent in piplines to Brisbane. The power station has now been closed down long ago.

  16. Yeah I don't see any real difference in ideology Al, it's just the rush and the sweeping of problems under the carpet in many ways that I really do object to and that includes the health and environmental concerns we have seen in Gladstone Harbour to the concerns of some residents who have experienced real health problems near gas wells at Tara Estates such as studied and reported by Dr Geralyn McCarron, which I wrote about recently. The response from the authorities first and foremost seems to be to assure everyone there are no health links and there is nothing to worry about. They do the same with regard to old mine discharges into the Fitzroy River system, they did the same here years ago when it became apparent than Gladstone had a higher than normal rate of leukemia and especially asthma. They implemented a "Gladstone clean and healthy air study" which only measured particulates down to a certain size which some medical experts claimed was not small enough to detect the dangerous ones, then they announced there was no problem and the only time emissions or particles in the air here were over approved limits was during bushfires or very strong winds.
    No health links to coal dust or any other major industries, which didn't really help explain the asthma rate or leukemia clusters. So I remain sceptical when the authorities say, don't worry, it's all good.

  17. Reverse Osmosis (RO), continued on from above comments [here] and [here]
    Put simply the aim of an RO plant is to put in water with contaminates into one side and get a improved product out the other. The term used for this filtered product is "permeate". Large-volume production of good quality RO product ("permeate") is very costly in time, energy and money. The better the permeate, the more
    concentrated the waste, and the slower and more elaborate and more costly the RO process.

    RO effectiveness depends on the:
    ● concentration of the contaminant;
    ● chemical properties of the contaminant;
    ● type and condition of the membrane(s) selected;
    ● operating conditions - water pressure / flow rate; pH; temperature; etc.; and
    ● proper installation and maintenance.
    ● RO is only relevant for dissolved compounds (eg. electrolytic or ionic
    compounds called "salts"). Hence the RO facility is called a "desalination
    ● Neutral or non-ionic compounds such as solvents and pesticides are not removed. Volatile gases (eg. molecular oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen;BTEX and other VOCs; carbon and sulphur oxides; hydrogen sulphide) will also pass through the RO membranes.
    ● Bacteria can also 'grow through' the RO membranes, resulting in bacterial
    growth in the post-filter water storage and distribution system.
    ● RO is non-element selective - ie. cannot target specific elements,
    especially elements of similar size and charge.
    ● The filtration causes the permeate to have different ratios between the cations , anions plus trace than normal surface water. It may need to be reconstituted or supplemented (eg.lime - calcium / magnesium carbonate) to meet drinking or stream water
    standards or guidelines.

  18. Interesting, Dale.I hadn't realised that about solvents, pesticides - ie it wouldn't remove the alcohol if you fed rum and coke thru it:0) But I always knew RO water wasn't a match for pure distilled water which does remove everything. The product you can buy as "demineralised water" would be the RO ' permeate' variety. If you visit a modern commercial car wash and use the 'spot free rinse', it is also RO water and if the system is in good condition it pretty much lives up to the spot free promise as the final rinse, unlike hosing your car down and just letting it dry off. But it just takes a small particle in an electronic solenoid switch valve to let some detergent or degreaser from another cycle thru and contaminate the 'spot free' with soap suds (a tiny trace of detergent foams very well in the treated water).
    Say it is a five or six bay car wash and that happens to a switch for the last bay. Suddenly you get irate customers in all the other bays complaining that their final spot free rinse is soapy so the poor mug in charge has to placate customers, offer extra free time or refunds, shut down the bays, dismantle the faulty solenoid, flush the hoses to all bays and get it working properly all while trying to keep calm (panic would be the worst thing you could do). If you are young, pretty and female you might get away with smiling and telling them to come back later and see the boss.
    Sorry for the divergence but I know all that because that was the type of business I mentioned managing for a time. Fortunately it didn't happen too often but I used to manage to get it fixed in about 10 or 15 minutes :0)

  19. I'll have to stoop being tempted into here soon, as I will really need to start concentrating on things associated with our o/S trip, ere long. You guys are just too interesting! :-(

    But for now, excellent post above Dale, except for one major faux for which both you and John fall.

    This is associated with your statement that:
    " ....
    ● RO is only relevant for dissolved compounds (eg. electrolytic or ionic
    compounds called "salts"). Hence the RO facility is called a "desalination
    ● Neutral or non-ionic compounds such as solvents and pesticides are not removed. Volatile gases (eg. molecular oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen;BTEX and other VOCs; carbon and sulphur oxides; hydrogen sulphide) will also pass through the RO membranes.

    Quite wrong. As Sol said, "Oils ain't oils". Just as while VW Ups and the like are cars, and Lamborghinis are cars, they sure ain't the same.

    As I have repeated ad nauseum, RO is capable of taking out everything. Repeat, everything!. That's what RO production of potable drinking water, eg in Singapore does, please believe it! You cannot compare some simple, back yard op whether it be at a car wash or whatever, with that. RO can certainly remove all molecular types (that's what it's for!!), down to and including solvents and pesticides, which are not particularly small molecules. NaCl is for example, much smaller. AND, they can remove micro bacterial organisms as well. The issue is entirely that of the capability (and hence the cost) of the system installed. So if any region wants to upgrade all groundwater, including CSG co-water, to potable standard, I assume that will take a significant installation, serving a suitable area. If ion the other hand upgrading to only groundwater use is required, different kettle of cations.
    Cheers al

    1. Really, it's all about molecular sieving, not just solids filtration.

  20. Hmm, I guess Dale will have to post the source of his info claiming RO doesn't remove solvents. As I said it was the first I had heard of that but Al, my post re the car wash system (much bigger than a backyard or household system) was to illustrate that a tiny grain of grit or rust scale in a valve can let contaminants thru into what comes out the tap (or the car wash gun). When it's detergent a small trace is obvious but if some other nasty chemical or bacteria, who would ever know unless someone drank it and became sick (in which case the authorities would cry "there's no link to our plant" :0) . Case in point - ecoli in Sydney's drinking water sourced from a desal plant near a sewer outfall a couple of years ago.
    Glad you are tempted back in too, it is an interesting discussion Al. I have also found out that the Agnes Water desal plant is almost ready for commissioning but surprise surprise, there is more than enough ground water there now. In the Qld Budget wrap last night it was revealed residents in SEQ were paying about $2million a day for the mainly unused Tugan desal plant, a recycling plant and hundrteds of km of pipeline installed under the Bligh admin. Maybe it will come in useful some day.

  21. Here's a report from the Herald Sun, 3rd Dec last, on our world's biggest and best white elephant, which is going to cost Vic a minimum of $24Billion over the next 28 years, even if not a drop of output is required.

    EXCLUSIVE: THE French boss of the troubled Wonthaggi desalination plant has admitted for the first time that the plant is too big for Melbourne's water needs.

    Suez Environment chief executive Jean-Louis Chaussade told the Herald Sun the size of the plant was based on unrealistic rainfall expectations.

    "The design was done to provide water to the full city of Melbourne in case of no rain during one year - which was not realistic ... The details why it was 150GL per year, I don't know," he said.

    "The design is not mine. I am answering what my customer is asking me to build."

    It comes as AquaSure, the consortium in charge of the project, announced today that the plant had passed a crucial milestone.

    Chris Herbert, CEO, AquaSure said the plant was operating at full capacity.

    "As a state asset for the long term the plant required a 50-year design life, with many assets having a 100-year life. This requirement resulted in an enormous investment in quality assurance," he said.
    "The investment and effort has paid off and resulted in an extremely efficient and successful commissioning phase."

    The Wonthaggi plant is able to produce 150GL - or 150 billion litres of water - every year if required.

    This makes it three times the size of the 45GL-a-year Gold Coast plant and 65 per cent bigger than Sydney's 91GL-a-year Kurnell desalination plant.

    Mr Chaussade was in Australia last week touring the desalination plant, which is now operational.

    He runs French water company Suez Environment, a major shareholder in the AquaSure consortium building and operating the Wonthaggi plant.

    Are you sure that in the coming 30 or 50 years you will not have a drought? Are you willing to bet on that?

    The plant, which will cost Victorians $24 billion over 28 years through higher water bills, is expected to be signed off in February - eight months past an extended deadline.

    But Mr Chaussade said the project was a "showcase" that would drought-proof Victoria.

    Mr Chaussade's company is suing the State Government for $1 billion to reclaim losses from the job.

    He said Victorians complaining about the cost of the plant would appreciate it during the next drought.

    "Are you sure that in the coming 30 or 50 years you will not have a drought? Are you willing to bet on that?" he said. "With this cost, you have an insurance if there is (a drought).

    As I've said above, there are RO plants, and RO plants. Just like there are Rubber Duckies, and Clive's Titanic 2. I would be surprised if anyone could sell an RO molecular filtration system (which obviously, should have conventional filtration in front of it) which wouldn't remove solvents and pesticides along with other solutes, but maybe at the low end of the market, they can, and do. I can't see the point (or legitimacy) of such a system, but I claim no expertise in this.

    Cheers al

  22. Very interesting again, Al. At least I find it interesting. You Vics do do things in a big way :0) I'm still trying to find out what our desal plant at Agnes Water has cost now that it also is not required at present.

  23. Al, I'll have to get back to you with another source about which one of us is right in regards to if RO can take out everything. As you wrote above that some plants are VW Ups & others like Lamborghinis. In the context of this debate we must stick to what is actually used in the CSG industry; are these plants Ups or Lamborghinis or something in between.

    I have on my files an analysis of water taken of an 18 month period of time that had been treated & discharged into the Condamine river which is part of the Murray/ darling system. It reveals percentages far greater than what is considered safe in the Australian drinking water guidelines.

    What do know about Continuous Ionic Filtration Water Treatment Plants as an alternative for RO or as a primary filtration for RO?

    1. Hi Dale, not wanting to chicken out, but we are soon to leave for Europe and I have a lot of things to get in shape before we take off, including the closing down of my small tech training support business which has been clobbered by the downturn in the plastics industry over the past few years. The announced closure of Ford's plants and what will flow from that was the last straw.

      So I don't have the time I should to pursue this interesting and important discussion. But I will add this link to a rather academic presentation which does identify some differences between micro and ultra filtration,and full - on RO. Click Here

      Cheers al

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. I assumed that the not so bad write up on RO and precursor cleanup systems had already been referenced but maybe not so, so here it is. A bit easier to read than my last link ;-( Click Here

      Cheers al

  24. Hello to all who posted here and thankyou from the outset, as I have just learned a great deal from the comments section of this post! Please don't stop arguing any time soon if this is the result.

    I want to post here with a quote leading to a few questions, in the hope that someone can direct my research further. Wikipedia had this to say about Singapore's RO technology:
    "NEWater is produced by a multiple barrier water reclamation process:
    The first barrier is conventional wastewater treatment in the Water Reclamation Plants.
    The second barrier, and first stage of the NEWater production process, uses microfiltration/ultrafiltration to remove suspended solids, colloidal particles, disease-causing bacteria, some viruses and protozoan cysts. The filtered water after passing through the membrane contains only dissolved salts and organic molecules.
    The third barrier, and second stage of the NEWater production process, uses reverse osmosis (RO). A semi-permeable membrane filters out contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, nitrates, chlorides, sulfates, disinfection by-products, aromatic hydrocarbons, and pesticides. NEWater is thus free from viruses and bacteria and contains very low levels of salts and organic matter. At this stage, the water is of potable quality.
    The fourth barrier, and third stage of the NEWater production process, is a safety precaution. UV disinfection is used to ensure that all organisms are inactivated and the purity of the water can be guaranteed. After adding some alkaline chemicals to restore the pH balance, NEWater is ready for use."

    So if this is true, and what it says here can be achieved, all we have to know is that a similar-level operation is indeed taking place anywhere that they want to put produced-water back into drinking supplies as at Chinchilla Weir, or anywhere that a cumulative build-up of trace contaminants in stock or crops etc could prove fatal to an agribusiness, therefore rendering any lesser-quality form of water filtration unsuitable...? And is there any way of finding out how our CSG operators' RO programs stack up against the NEWater standard? Last but not least, when the National Toxics Network talks about "low-molecular-weight chemicals" and "chemicals which are harmful at any level" being present in fracking fluids and possibly some coal seam water, are these included in the above list of contaminants filtered out by NEWater's RO or a new kettle of fish entirely?

    These are not loaded questions - I have been wanting to know more about this for a while so all pointers gratefully accepted.

    Rob R (Brisbane)

  25. Hi Rob, Dale might be able to answer when he is back from the PRA annual conference which will no doubt be considering some of these aspects re CSG production. My brother Alan is a defender of the Singapore system which does sound great but would any of ther CSG companies be considering similar stage of treatment? I doubt it. Bro Al will be away for several weeks on a o'seas jaunt so the debate may lapse...

  26. How to clean up the aftermath of a gas boom in Wyoming is still being worked out. The above article was published back in May and on the 24th December the New York Times published the article, Wyoming May Act to Plug Abandoned Wells as Natural Gas Boom Ends

    "The companies that once operated the wells have all but vanished into the prairie, many seeking bankruptcy protection and unable to pay the cost of reclaiming the land they leased. Recent estimates have put the number of abandoned drilling operations in Wyoming at more than 1,200, and state officials said several thousand more might soon be orphaned by their operators.

    Still, given the number of wells already abandoned and the concern that more will soon be deserted, the money is not expected to go far. The state estimated that closing the 1,200 wells already abandoned would cost about $8 million.

    Compounding the problem, state officials estimate that Wyoming may also have to plug 2,300 wells that are sitting idle but have not been entirely abandoned by operators."


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