Assessing air quality in Queensland’s major gas region

A new CSIRO study has found that the ambient air quality in the CSG-producing Surat Basin region in southwestern Queensland is comparable to other rural areas across Australia.

The finding is contained in the final report by CSIRO scientists who, since September 2014, have assessed data collected from five air quality monitoring sites across the Surat Basin.

Three of the five sites had between 15 and 25 gas production wells located within a two kilometre radius (one monitoring site was approximately 100 metres from a gas well). The remaining two ‘rural’ sites measured air quality away from gas field operations.

The study was conducted to investigate the influence of CSG activities on regional air quality. It measured 54 target gases such as nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, methane, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes), aldehydes and small particles in the air, known as particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10).

Origin Environmental Officer Matt Kernke said bush or vegetation fires were the leading cause of a lot of elevated small particle levels observed during the program.

“Almost all compounds were found to be consistently higher in the nearby town of Chinchilla, compared to the gas field sites,” Matt said.

“This was caused by the town’s traffic and provides a useful context when discussing the impacts of gas-related activities compared to other local sources.”

He said air monitoring stations were deliberately placed very close to gas infrastructure to measure what were expected to be the biggest impacts of gas operations.

“A key outcome for our industry is that average methane concentrations at the gas field monitoring sites were similar to those found at the rural monitoring sites, which are located 10 to 20 kilometres away from gas-producing infrastructure,” Matt said.

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