Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Fight for Clean Water: Coal Seam Gas or Fracking Spread Virally

The production, export and burning of CSG for energy may be little or no better for our climate future than coal. As a gas, CSG burns cleaner than coal, yielding only 56% of the CO2 for the same heat output of coal. It also tends to produce fewer emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (Nox).

The gas industry claims "gas-fired power stations emit up to 70 per cent less greenhouse gases than existing coal-burning plants. The '70 per cent less' figure may be accurate if only combustion is considered. It does not include the emissions associated with producing the gas - the drilling of almost 20,000 planned wells, the fracking process, the compression, dehydration, scrubbing and liquefying of the gas; nor those involved in exporting it - purging, boil-back from cryogenic transfers, leakage during LNG transfers, boil-back in transit, powering of LNG ships; and finally, re-gasification before use. It also ignores the impact of deforestation of woodland for the production well sites, pipelines, service facilities, roads and power easements.

The global warming potential (GWP) of Methane is 72-times x more potent than CO2, making any fugitive emissions (leakage) of CSG that much worse. Methane emissions from the natural gas industry are equivalent to 1.4% of gross natural gas production. Fracking is a technique used to speed up the flow of methane gas from underground rock formations. It makes the rock that has contained the gas for tens of millions of years permeable. This increases the risk of fugitive emissions. This is also being ignored by the CSG industry. A 3% methane leakage rate cancels any greenhouse gas emissions advantage claimed for CSG over coal.

CSG may be cleaner than coal, but it is not clean, nor green.

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