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Department unable to explain how emissions from coal seam gas are measured



Departmental officials were unable to provide any clarity on how the greenhouse emissions profile of coal seam gas is actually measured in Australia on questioning from the Greens in Senate Estimates.

“When the coal seam gas industry’s claims to be substantially better for the climate than coal are increasingly being called into question by the evidence, it is remarkable that the Climate Change Department is not commissioning rigorous independent in-situ monitoring to measure how much methane leaks from Australian wells,” Australian Greens Deputy Leader, Senator Christine Milne, said.

The questions follow the release of a study of leakage around shale gas wells in the USA by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published in the journal Nature which called into question claims by the gas industry to be better for the climate than coal. The study found that leakage was twice the industry’s official figures, effectively cancelling out the climate benefit of the transition from coal to shale gas. No similar independent studies have been made publicly available in Australia of the similar coal seam gas industry.

“My several questions trying to ascertain what, if any, field studies had been done were met with vague responses about ‘working with industry’ and an ‘independent study’ done last year by George Wilkenfeld which is ‘commercial in confidence’.

“The Wilkenfeld study should be released so that the methodology can be examined and concerned communities can find out what, if any, independent verification has been done of the industry’s claims.

“Because methane is so much more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, a small amount of leakage can undermine any climate benefit gas has over coal. But we still don’t know if anybody has actually measured how much methane leaks from Australian coal seam gas wells.”

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