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Condamine CSG seepage is 'naturally occurring': Origin
31/05/2012 - Gas that's bubbling to the surface of Queensland's Condamine River is probably naturally occurring, a coal seam gas (CSG) company says.
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Campaigners fighting the expansion of the CSG industry have released footage of gas bubbling from sites along the river, near the inland town of Chinchilla.
Lock the Gates Alliance president Drew Hutton said it's possible for methane to naturally bubble to the surface of waterways, but CSG activities in the area could also be to blame.
Hutton says no local farmers have ever heard of methane seepage happening in the Condamine River.
"The fact it's occurring along several kilometres of the river would suggest it is not an isolated occurrence but a major leak and has found its way to the surface along migration pathways opened up by the de-watering of aquifers or fracking," he says.
Fracking is a process that uses pressurised fluid to release gas.
"I don't think there is any doubt this extensive leak is linked to the coal seam gas drilling, and probably fracking, that is occurring in nearby wells."
But Origin Energy says it believes the seepage has nothing to do with hits CSG activities in the affected area, where coal seams lie very close to the surface.
Origin spokesman Ken Horton has told reporters the company has four wells about one kilometre away from where the seepage is occurring.
But Horton said those wells were cased in cement and had never been put into production.
He also said tests had shown they were not leaking gas and Origin had not carried out any fracking associated with those wells.
"The coal seam in this particular area could be as close to 50 to 75 metres from the surface," he told reporters.
"It is our understanding that natural gas seepage in this area is not an uncommon occurrence and there's anecdotal evidence to indicate this isn't the first time seepage has been observed."
Horton said the company looked into the seepage early last week, and would likely carry out further investigations.
"We are working with the government, the gas commission and the community to better understand this phenomenon," he said.
Horton said methane, which was the gas involved, was not toxic and any negative environmental or health outcomes were highly unlikely.
Comment has been sought from the state government.
At a later press conference, Hutton agreed natural causes could not be ruled out.
"But what I'm saying to Origin is they need to release the data that they have so it can be independently assessed and checked to ensure this isn't linked to the wells that they're operating," he told reporters.
Hutton said he would call on the government to demand the data if Origin refused to release it.
Katter's Australian Party Queensland leader Rob Katter backed a push by his federal MP father for a moratorium on CSG drilling.
"We've got a river bubbling like a bottle of soda water. We should be concerned," he told reporters.
"Any sensible government should be looking at these events and saying maybe we should have a moratorium."
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