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What Is the Future of Shale Gas in Australia?

By Peter Cook

A review by ACOLA has weighed up the risks and rewards of shale gas extraction.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Unconventional gas, such as shale gas, coal seam gas and methane hydrates, has been in the news for many months as argument rages over its benefits and its impacts. The nation has to make a decision on this resource – and quickly.

For some, the potential economic benefits of new and potentially cheaper sources of gas are reason enough to develop shale gas. For others, the potential environmental impacts are reason enough to ban shale gas production.

The issue has been highlighted by a recent review by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA), which has been examining the science, technology, economic, environmental and social impacts of shale gas in Australia.

Risks
To produce shale gas from fine-grained rocks with little or no natural permeability, it is necessary to hydraulically fracture (frack) the rock to allow gas to flow from the shale and into the production well. But there are concerns about the possibility of accidentally extending the fractures into an aquifer and contaminating important groundwater resources. Leaking wells also constitute a potential source of contamination.

A second risk is that fracking might result in induced seismicity – small earthquakes or microseismic events. There have been many fracking activities undertaken over the years around the world, but few examples of related...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.