AN international geology expert claims the mining of shale gas causes less damage to the environment than extracting coal-seam gas, which is dividing communities in Australia.
Scott Tinker, of the University of Texas, said yesterday in Brisbane the US had “gone down the CSG route” in the late 1990s before moving to shale gas in the past few years.
“The big challenge with unconventional gas such as these two is how it affects water, but shale gas is extracted from considerably deeper than coal-seam gas,” he told the 34th International Geological Conference.
“The water you’re extracting with coal-seam gas is often part of the aquifer system, and that can affect water systems.”
Shale gas makes far more use of hydraulic fracturing — the technique of blasting underground known as “fracking” — than CSG, but Professor Tinker said the technology was improving all the time, so the risks were becoming more manageable. “It’s one of a lot of things which actually doesn’t affect the environment all that much, but I understand that people are worried about it.”
Former British chief scientist Ron Oxburgh told the conference there was no “silver bullet” for reducing greenhouse emissions while demand for energy was still increasing rapidly.
But Lord Oxburgh said replacing coal with gas was one of the quickest and least painful ways to cut emissions. He said advances in technology had made the mining of gas — especially shale oil and CSG — more efficient and safer.