It is sometimes claimed that those opposed to shale and tight gas fracking activities are mistaking shale for coal seam gas (CSG). This claim is false.
Those concerned about shale and tight gas fracking in WA are aware of the differences between shale, tight sandstone and CSG – and deeply alarmed precisely about the threats to water that flow from shale and tight gas development.
The risk of pollution to groundwater from shale and tight gas fracking is similar – shale gas wells are, if anything, more likely to fail than coal seam gas wells, because the pressures required to fracture shale (which is extremely hard) is greater than that required to fracture a coal seam. Further, shale gas wells are more difficult to construct, because they are deeper. With added complexity comes greater chance of failure.
East coast CSG wells are useful as guides to some of the threats of shale gas mining...
Shale Gas field in the USA (left) and a Coal Seam Gas field in Queensland (right). The surface impact of both is similar.
Better, however, is the precedents provided by the case of shale gas fracking in the USA, such as the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, or the Barnett Shale in Texas. These shale deposits lie at similar depths to the deposits in Western Australia. Increasingly scary stories are emerging from these places.
A good resource to look at with regards to the experience there is the ‘list of the harmed’ website, which details some of the terrible stories that have emerged from shale gas producing areas in the United States: www.pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress.com
Source: Anthony Ingraffea, ‘Fluid Migration Mechanisms Due To Faulty Well Design And/Or Construction’ 2012; Bruffatto et al., ‘Oilfield Review’, ConocoPhillips & Schlumberger, 2003.