Frequently asked questions

    Environment

    Will cropping land be protected?

    Queensland has legislation in place to protect the State’s best cropping land.

    Currently, this cropping land (or strategic cropping land) is subject to a range of competing land-use activities, including agriculture, mining and urban development. Some of these activities can permanently impact this land, making it unavailable for cropping.

    Strategic cropping land legislation applies to approximately 42 million hectares of Queensland, or about one-quarter of the state's landmass—comprising of both protected and management areas.

    Land-use conflicts, potential impacts of resource activities and urban development on Queensland’s best cropping land is assessed against various criteria under state legislation.

    More information on strategic cropping land.

    How are landholder rights being protected?

    There are measures in place to strengthen protection and assistance for landholders.

    Landholders are entitled to fair compensation including reimbursement for legal, accounting and valuation costs incurred in negotiating and preparing a compensation agreement.

    Companies are required to give landholders at least 10 days notice before they can enter their property for any form of activity.

    For activities where there might be more disturbance, such as drilling a well, constructing a pipeline or a compressor station, the company must negotiate a conduct and compensation agreement with the landholder prior to entry.

    Landholders have a right to negotiate fair and reasonable compensation for the impact or potential impact that these more substantial activities or exploration may have on their businesses.

    When on a landholder's property, companies must adhere to the land access code which outlines conditions what the operator must adhere to. It also provides a best practice guide to communications between landholders and operators.

    Will resource activities such as (petroleum, geothermal and greenhouse gas storage) ruin the landscape?

    Operators are required to fully rehabilitate all areas of disturbance caused by their activities. To ensure that this will occur, financial assurance must be provided, and will be used for rehabilitation in the event that the company defaults on its environmental requirements. The financial assurance is not returned to the operator until successful rehabilitation is completed

    What about gas leaks?

    Operators must undergo regular gas well head audits. The government undertakes separate auditing activities to verify the industry reports on these audits.

    The government has also undertaken a Coal Seam Gas Well Head Safety Program audit. Of the more than 2700 well heads tested in the audit, 98 per cent showed no reportable leak.

    Water

    Will landholders’ water supplies be protected?

    An adaptive management framework is in place that protects landholders' groundwater supplies.

    As part of this, operators must:

    • undertake baseline assessments of water bores
    • develop spring impact management strategies
    • conduct annual bore assessments
    • enter into ‘make good agreements’ with landholders to restore a bore’s capacity to supply water, or provide the bore owner with an alternative water supply.

    In areas where the impacts of water extraction by individual operations overlap—called ‘cumulative management areas’ (CMA)—underground water impact reports are prepared to assess the impacts and assigns responsibilities to individual operators.

    More information on underground water is available.

    What is fraccing?

    Fraccing is the process of creating cracks in underground coal seams to increase the flow and recovery of gas out of a well. This is done by pumping fluid under pressure into the seams to prop open small cracks and openings that allow more gas to be released.

    Will fraccing contaminate underground water?

    Fraccing fluids are made up almost entirely of water and sand (typically 99 percent) but they also include a variety of additives used for various purposes, such as the prevention of bacterial growth and corrosion of infrastructure.

    Many of the fraccing additives are used in everyday life such as in swimming pools, soaps and vinegar, and are generally designed to either oxidise or biodegrade during the fraccing activity or soon thereafter. Use of the more toxic BTEX chemicals in fraccing fluid is banned.

    After a coal seam has been fracced, fraccing fluids (flowback) are pumped out of the well until one and a half times (150%) the amount of the fluid used in the fracc has been removed. This is to ensure that all water used for the fracc is removed.

    More information on fraccing is available.

    Are BTEX chemicals used in fraccing?

    Laws strictly regulate the use of BTEX chemicals in fraccing. BTEX chemicals benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene are not allowed to be added to fraccing fluids.

    Will Coal Seam Gas (CSG) activities drain the Great Artesian Basin?

    No, the Great Artesian Basin holds about 65 million gigalitres of water (around 116 000 Sydney Harbours). Over the life of the coal seam gas industry in Queensland (around 50 years), it is estimated that the industry will extract around 2,500 gigalitres of water from the Great Artesian Basin. This is only about 0.004 per cent of the Basin’s total volume.

    What happens to CSG water?

    CSG water (the water that is removed from coals seams to access the gas) contains varying concentrations of salt.

    This water is treated to ensure it meets water quality standards before it is either injected back into underground water systems, or used for other beneficial purposes, such as irrigating crops, watering livestock or supplementing town drinking water supplies.

    Will CSG activities affect drinking water?

    CSG companies must produce a recycled water management plan including a public health risk assessment for any CSG water that is likely to end up in a drinking water supply, prior to any CSG activities taking place.

    This could be through reinjection into an area where potable water is drawn from or through disposing CSG water into a river system where it might end up in a weir.

    If CSG water is likely to end up in a drinking water system, strict water quality and human health standards must be met.

    Enforcement and compliance

    What is the role of the CSG Compliance Unit?

    The CSG Compliance Unit monitors CSG operators and ensures they comply with laws and policies affecting the industry.

    The unit, based regionally, is responsible for compliance activities and managing complaints.

    The unit:

    • acts as a one-stop shop to respond to safety, land access and environmental concerns
    • manages and investigates complaints
    • undertakes planned and unplanned site inspections
    • is responsible for sampling 300 groundwater bores per year to monitor the impacts of groundwater quality from CSG activity and to verify the monitoring data that is being supplied by CSG companies.

    The CSG Compliance Unit can be contacted via (07) 4529 1500 or the Business Queensland website.

    Regulation

    What laws are in place?

    Non-mining resource activities in Queensland are subject to strict laws to minimise impacts on natural systems, protect groundwater and sustain the environment, including laws that:

    • protect groundwater and the Great Artesian Basin
    • protect landholders’ water quality
    • prohibit harmful chemicals being used in fraccing operations
    • require evaporation dams to be decommissioned
    • ensure environmentally sensitive treatment and disposal of CSG salt and water.

    Before companies start work they must go through an application and approval process and meet strict requirements.

    And during the life of projects, non-mining resource projects require various authorities, licences and permits for exploration, development and production activities.

    In addition, the government has a process in place which ensures environmental licences can be changed to take into account results from new research, monitoring or modelling.

    More information on Integrated laws to manage water impacts—ESR/2016/2396 (formerly EM1172) (PDF, 287.8KB)  

    What is the application and approval process for petroleum activities (Including CSG activities)?

    • Authority to Prospect—resource companies seeking to explore must apply for, and be granted, an Authority to Prospect (ATP) permit through a competitive tender process. A granted ATP only allows approved exploration activities to be undertaken if an environmental authority has been issued.
    • Environmental authority— an environmental authority is needed to carry out non-mining resource activities. It includes operating conditions that must be complied with including the management, treatment and disposal of waste water, ongoing assessment of fraccing activities (including chemical use) and other environmental issues such as noise and land disturbance.
    • Environmental impact statement—an environmental impact statement is required for higher risk or significant developments (such as large-scale coal seam gas fields, major gas pipelines and LNG processing plants). It must include environmental and social assessments.
    • Petroleum lease—a petroleum lease (which applies for a maximum of 30 years) must include a proposed initial development plan for the first five years of activities. The holder of a petroleum lease must also hold an environmental authority allowing it to conduct the proposed activities.