What is coal seam gas?

Coal Seam Gas (CSG) is a natural gas that is extracted from coal seams deep underground. It is predominantly methane, which is odourless and colourless. At the end of the production cycle, the gas is chilled into liquefied natural gas (LNG) for use in electricity production. The LNG produced from CSG extraction in Australia is mainly for export markets, but also for domestic (household) use.

Why is Council concerned about CSG?

The primary reason for our concern is the number of likely environmental impacts from CSG exploration and extraction. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Dewatering of groundwater aquifers
  • Impacts on stream flow and water quality
  • Land subsidence
  • Damage to river ecosystems
  • Leaching of gas during actual methane gas production

The above impacts arise from the very nature of CSG where the methane trapped in coal is adsorbed onto the coal surface and held in place by a reservoir and water pressure in the coal seam. Basically, the coal is the source of, and the reservoir for, the methane. Water within the seam therefore has to be drawn off before the methane is extracted, and as the amount of water in the seam decreases, methane production increases. Essentially, bore holes placed within the coal seam have to be de-watered continuously and it is the environmental impacts from dewatering that are of the greatest concern, including the quality of water extracted and the disposal of such water.

There are many websites that explore the impacts of CSG on the environment and communities.

One of the most exceptional features of the Blue Mountains area is the hanging swamps and associated groundwater-dependent ecosystems. These ecosystems rely solely on the purity and the reliability of groundwater aquifers, which would be greatly threatened by any CSG exploration and/or production.

The listing of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area (GBMWHA) in 2000 was a resounding achievement for the preservation of a unique environment of international standing. The likely impact on the quantity and quality of water in the GBMWHA is seen as being highly destructive, not just to the World Heritage Listing (a listing that is regularly reviewed) but also to the water supplies of Sydney and Lithgow which are sourced from within the GBMWHA.

In particular, the impact of contaminated coal seam water entering both groundwater and surface water systems in the GBMWHA, and the effect on drinking water quality in these areas, is of specific concern. It is also worth noting that, given the requirement for dewatering of coal seams, it is likely that extraction, even outside the area, would have an impact in the GBMWHA given the inter-connecting and complex nature of groundwater aquifers.

Where do CSG leases exist?

The NSW Government CSG website has links to interactive maps that show CSG wells by postcode or area, company name or licence title.

Interactive maps also show:

  • If a CSG well is currently in production
  • Whether the well has been rehabilitated and permanently sealed or suspended
  • Whether the well has been fractured and on what date, and
  • Whether the well has been horizontally or laterally drilled.

In addition, maps for each individual lease, and application under assessment, can be found on the NSW Trade & Investment, Division of Resources and Energy, Mineral Resources Branch website.

Coal Seam Gas Review by NSW Chief Scientist

NSW Chief Scientist and Engeineer, Professor Mary O'Kane, was directed by NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell in February 2013 to conduct a comprehensive review of CSG-related activities, focussing on the human health and environment impact. The initial report of this independent review was released 30 July 2013 and can be accessed here.

What role does Council play in the approval process for CSG leases?

Council has no approval powers in this area as applications for CSG exploration and extraction are made to the NSW Government.

Council can, and will, make submissions during the application process, and lobby State members on the issues of CSG, but has the same status as any other submitter to the process.

What role does Council play in the approval process for CSG leases?

Council has no approval powers in this area as applications for CSG exploration and extraction are made to the NSW Government.

Council can, and will, make submissions during the application process, and lobby State members on the issues of CSG, but has the same status as any other submitter to the process.

What is Council doing?

Council is strongly opposed to the granting of any exploration licence for CSG in or near our local government area (LGA) and the GBMWHA, now or in the future, given the above likely environmental impacts on it and surrounding areas.

Council has written many letters outlining our opposition to CSG exploration and mining to Members of NSW Parliament, as well as responding to specific exploration licence applications.

Past and current actions of the Council occurring at the following meetings, access downloads at the right of this page:

  • Council Meeting 29 January 2014 (Item 28)
  • Council Meeting 14 May 2013 (Item 11)
  • Council Meeting 27 November 2012 (Matter of Urgency – Minutes only)
  • Council Meeting 6 November 2012 (Matter of Urgency – Minutes only)
  • Council Meeting 18 August 2009 (Notice of Motion - Item 25)

How can I have my say?

The community has a formal role to play whenever an application for a licence is made. Guidelines on making submissions during this process can be found through the NSW Government website.

The NSW Government also makes formal policies that involve a public consultation period. Again, there is a role for individual community members to make submissions during the exhibition period.

Council, as noted above, makes submissions on individual lease applications and policy areas. And, there is always the opportunity to contact elected Councillors and NSW Government representatives outside formal submission processes.

I want to get more involved in stopping CSG in the Blue Mountains?

There are a number of organisations and groups who actively lead and coordinate community action against CSG, including the well-known group Lock The Gate.

A local group actively campaigning against CSG is Stop CSG Blue Mountains which we consider may be of interest to other members of the public.