The National Toxics Network (NTN) has released a briefing paper on the chemicals used in the drilling and extraction of coal seam gas (CSG) in Australia. NTN is calling on state and federal Governments to urgently introduce a moratorium on all drilling and fracking chemicals until they have been independently assessed by the federal regulator.
“Our investigation found that of 23 common fracking chemicals used in Australia, only 2 have ever been assessed by NICNAS, Australia’s industrial chemicals regulator. The two that were assessed, have never been assessed for use as fracking chemicals,” said lead author of the report, Dr Mariann Lloyd Smith.
“Constituents of fracking fluids are often considered ‘trade secrets’ and not revealed. Even regulators are left in the dark,” she says. “Risk assessments for specific CSG projects in Queensland lacked basic information on the chemicals. The ones we were able to identify concerned us because of their significant potential to cause damage to the environment and human health. Some were linked with cancer and birth defects, while others damaged the hormone system of living things and affected aquatic species at very low levels.”
“Fracking chemicals are complex mixtures of different chemicals which increases their risks. They are being used in very large volumes and unknown concentrations for purposes they were never intended for,” Dr Lloyd –Smith says.
“Despite industry claims that fracking chemicals are ‘only used in small quantities’ and are all ‘food grade chemicals used in household chemicals’, NTN has discovered that hazardous chemicals such as ethylene glycol, formamide, naphthalene, ethoxylated nonylphenol and sodium persulfate are commonly used in fracking mixtures
“To give you an idea of the quantities involved, in one QLD proposed coal seam gas operation it was reported that 18,500kg of additives were to be used in each well during the fracturing process and that up to 40% (i.e. 7,500kg or 7.5 tonnes) of the fracking fluids would remain in the formations, ” Dr Lloyd-Smith says.
“That’s a very large quantity of chemicals and they have to go somewhere. Whether they stay underground or they are bought back to the surface and placed in evaporation ponds, there are significant risks of pollution to waterways, the atmosphere and surrounding communities,” she says.
“By allowing these chemicals to go unchecked, it effectively gives the CSG industry a green light to pollute. With such rapid expansion of the CSG industry expected, Governments must intervene to ensure the industry does not cause irreversible pollution” Dr Lloyd-Smith concluded.
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Hydraulic Fracturing in Coal Seam Gas Mining: The Risks to Our Health, Communities, Environment and Climate
NSW Coal and Gas Strategy
The NSW Coal and Gas Strategy Feedback received during the public consultation about the scoping paper for the proposed NSW Coal and Gas strategy will be considered in the development of an overarching Coal and Gas Policy and strategic regional land use plans.
More than 1000 submissions were received.