Arrow Energy has been granted an environmental authority to drill 55 coal seam gas wells near a site contaminated with benzene, naphthalene, and cyanide in western Queensland. This project is an expansion of the Shell and PetroChina joint venture’s existing six-well facility at Hopeland near Chinchilla on the western Downs. The Department of Environment and Science (DES) has placed strict conditions on the EA, obligating Arrow to monitor any potential movement of contaminants from the site of Linc Energy’s failed underground coal gasification project. This includes expanding the number of bores in its existing groundwater monitoring network, having a program to detect changes to groundwater, and monitoring all groundwater points at identified locations every quarter. The DES will conduct regular compliance checks, including planned and unplanned site inspections, and assessing groundwater information to ensure Arrow is abiding by their environmental obligations. If the conditions are not met or the Environmental Protection Act 1994 is contravened, the DES will take compliance action including fines, the issue of statutory orders, or prosecution.
Linc Energy operated four underground coal gasification sites where it burned coal to produce gas between 2007 and 2013, but that caused the ground to fracture allowing toxic gasses to leak into the groundwater. The company went into voluntary administration in April 2016 before being penalized $4.5 million in 2018 on five counts of wilfully and unlawfully causing environmental harm. The DES reported in November 2022 that more than 180 groundwater samples from Linc Energy sites had tested positive for contaminants including benzene, naphthalene, and cyanide. However, 130 samples from nearby landholder bores taken since 2015 showed they had not been contaminated, and landholders were notified as recently as late 2021. Tests from monitoring bores on the nearby Kummerows Rd reserve found benzene and cyanide in 2021. The department denied suggestions that it had failed its legal obligation to notify landholders about the contaminants. Arrow applied for an EA to increase the number of gas wells by 55 and the surface area of its nearby Hopeland project in October 2021.
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