Queensland Mining Minister to face Kingaroy community
Minister Stephen Robinson and Department of Environment and Resource Management Director-General John Bradley will finally face the community of Kingaroy on Wednesday August 25th, to address a public meeting of locals citizens concerned about Cougars Energy’s Underground Coal Gasification project. He will be accompanied by three members of an industry expert panel appointed to assess the impact of the project, and in particular the contamination event that became public in mid-July.
DERM and the panel has assessed information about this event, and although Cougar Energy has in the last week submitted additional data to the panel, they will be explaining the circumstances of the event as they are know at the moment. Kingaroy Concerned Citizens Group (KCCG) will be asking the panel and the minister a series of questions after the information session.
These questions will focus on:
- The prospect of Cougar Energy recommencing its trial in Kingaroy
- Estimates of the contamination levels had the trial continued as approved.
- The research that suggest that the site of the UCG trial in Kingaroy is not suitable due to its immediate influence on ground water.
- The effect of these events on the local community
- An explanation on how water samples containing high levels of benzene were apparently switched or mislabelled between collection and analysis.
- An explanation of how there came to be a three month delay between the initial contamination and the announcement of it.
- The initial approval of the trial when the destination of water in the UCG aquifer is not determined.
- The improbability of rehabilitation of a UCG mining site.
- The long term impact of approved mining projects changing the character of the Kingaroy district to a heavily industrialised zone, incompatible with sustainable farming practices.
The members of KCCG also noted recent statements made in Parliament by Member for Nanango Dorothy Pratt. These matters will also be referred to in the part of Wednesday night’s meeting assigned for questions and statements.
During the last week, KCCG has sent letters to all State MPs summarising the groups continued concerns about UCG. A copy of that letter is provided below.
Letter to all State Government MPs
The Kingaroy Concerned Citizens Group (KCCG) is a part of a growing number of Queenslanders that are opposed to Underground Coal Gasification (UCG).
This opposition has been justified after the release of toxic chemicals into groundwater at Kingaroy recently.
UCG is a process that burns coal underground to produce syngas for electricity generation. Although it is being promoted as “clean” energy, evidence suggests that this is not an accurate description of the process.
KCCG is opposed to using the UCG process in any areas where there is potable ground water supplies and prime farming land. Our reasons for this are:
- Water contamination: The UCG process has caused serious water contamination issues in areas such as Hoe Ck in Wyoming USA, and now at Cougar Energy’s Kingaroy experiment. Proponents of UCG state that the process can and does contaminate water supplies. At Kingaroy, this experimental process is being carried out under important water aquifers. UCG will can allow toxins such as benzenes and phenols to enter water supplies. This occurred 3 to 4 days after the Cougar experiment started and then failed. Other UCG projects that have contaminated water supplies are el Tremedal in Spain, and parts of the former Soviet Union.
- Water loss: Heat and the subsidence earth caused by the UCG coal fire can cause great structural damage to rocks above aquifers, which in turn allows groundwater from aquifers to flow into the coal cavity. Surrounding farms and towns rely on these aquifers for their potable water requirements.
- Subsidence: At the UCG site in Uzbekistan there is subsidence of land as coal is burnt at varying depths. Subsidence severs aquifers that feed bores and wells. Any subsidence will ruin good farming land and underlying water aquifers. The experimental trial at Kingaroy has been allowed to occur on and around prime farming land supports two large dairies that use underground water, and other farms that grows peanuts soybeans, wheat, corn and popcorn.
- Claims of "clean" coal: It is a toxic process that leaves poisons in the ground cavity and expels toxins to the surface that need to be scrubbed out of the syngas. These chemicals then need to be stored in toxic waste water dams. The resulting chemical cocktail then needs to be disposed of “somewhere”. In Kingaroy, these toxins are present in the on-site dam built for that purpose.
- “Efficient” use of coal reserves: A great proportion of the heat from the coal is lost in the heating up of the underground cavity as the coal burns; this makes the process thermally very inefficient and produces high carbon levels for energy actually produced.
- Carbon capture: Proponents of the process say that CO2 capture is possible by using the coal cavity for reinjection of CO2 after burning. However, the cavity has a high likelihood of subsiding and because if this instability, it could not be guaranteed that any CO2 would be stored.
- Why use this toxic process?: Queensland has ample coal reserves and natural gas that can be burnt in controlled situations above ground. While conventional coal burning is not ideal or necessarily clean energy, (and we should be promoting alternative and low energy practices), it is a known and controllable process. UCG is neither known nor controllable. Out of sight and underground is not clean technology. Its toxicity is more insidious.
- Interference with agriculture: UCG plants need a continuous stream of pipes and holes being drilled across the landscape as coal burns below ground. Does the heat from these pipes sterilise the soil surface also? Agriculture or any other industry cannot co-exist with UCG, especially with the risk to groundwater. There is an obvious net loss of valuable farming land.
- Use of water in the UCG process: In prime agricultural land, this process has the potential to dramatically affect the availability of local water through its need for water in the burn process. On a commercial scale it could have a profound impact to local water supplies.
We would ask your support in ensuring that the UCG process is not considered as part of Queensland’s future energy solution.
With adequate minable coal supplies and alternative energy such as solar becoming common, there are better responses to global warming than allowing the development of a process that permanently contaminates underground water supplies and damages the landscape.