MIDCOAST Water has again expressed disappointment at the speed of the progress of the Gloucester coal seam methane gas project with the announcement that fracturing (fracking) is to commence ahead of the completion of a water study of the area.
Chairman Cr David West said the water utility was concerned that AGL had announced it would conduct hydraulic fracture simulation on the wells already drilled at Waukivory, and that this would occur prior to the completion of a water study to be undertaken by independent experts appointed by Gloucester Shire Council.
"We are extremely disappointed that AGL is now looking to fracture one of the wells to gauge how much gas flows prior to this independent water study being undertaken," Cr West said.
"We feel any fracturing is premature and should be delayed until after the results of the independent water study are made known."
Gloucester Shire Council is due to announce the experts appointed to conduct the study next week.
AGL has indicated it will shortly lodge a Review of Environ mental Factors application for the next stage of development of the four wells drilled last year and this part of the program will test the amount of gas produced, monitor the amount of water produced and provide information about the geology and hydrogeology of the area. To do so the well will be hydraulically fracture stimulated.
Cr West said while MidCoast Water accepts that hydraulic fracture stimulation is a well-established practice used to widen the existing cleats (or fractures) in the coal to allow trapped gas to flow more easily of the coal seams, it is the timing of the action that is of concern.
"It may well be that the fracturing of the well will have no impact on the water, however there is also the possibility that it may and it will be difficult to tell if it is carried out before the study is completed."
MidCoast Water has previously expressed its disappointment at the granting of a conditional approval for the gas project by the Federal Government before a bioregional assessment was undertaken.
Bioregional assessments are a scientific analysis of the ecology, hydrology and geology of an area for the purpose of assessing the potential risks to water resources in the area as a result of impacts of coal seam gas or large coal mining development.
The approval, granted to AGL by the Commonwealth Depar tment of Sustainability, Environ ment, Water Population and Communities, is for the construction, operation and decommissioning not more than 110 coal seam gas wells and associated infrastructure including gas and water gathering lines.
The approval also covered a central processing facility, the construction of a transfer line to Hexham and a gas receiving station at Hexham.