Saturday, 30 April 2011

Gas is good but do we need to export LNG

Do you know what LNG is? Do you know what is happening in Gladstone in Queensland? Multinational mining companies lower the unemployment rate, build infrastructure and pay royalties making the state and federal governments look good but what is the cost?
Easter is over for another year and after our guests left the usual Easter rain started to fall. Any unfound Easter eggs will not melt but be saturated. I now enjoy lying in bed in the mornings, planning my day while listening to the sound of the rain on the tin roof instead of the forced whispers of children.

We bought a new solar hot water system for $1400 at the beginning of summer, and until this week have not turned on the gas hot water system. Around the same time we bought a new gas stove and we have used only the last third of one 45kg gas bottle since then, a big saving as we were using one every 8-10 weeks. Our outdoor summer barbecue is also powered by gas. So yes, we do use gas. I wouldn’t cook on anything else.

But do we need to export it? Do we need more LNG plants? LNG stands for liquid natural gas, which is gas cooled to -162°C to form a liquid for transporting overseas. These huge plants are mostly owned by multinational companies. They employ people and pay for infrastructure, but they need a lot of wells to make the plant viable and so this comes at a cost to our environment and therefore our food sources.

Recently I received emails from Queensland where hundreds of thousands of wells in the south west of the state are planned to feed the LNG plant in Gladstone. As a warning about gas mining in our area I was told the following -

The Government forced the acquisition of 6,500 Ha of the World Heritage listed Curtis Island for the LNG plant. To create a channel deep enough to get LNG ships to load up from the plant 1,200 Ha of sheltered seaway will be destroyed, including the habitat of the highly endangered Dugong and other marine creatures. All this is within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park World Heritage area.

Safety standards for LNG plants are set by SIGTTO (US Govt) and Lloyds. The safety exclusion zone for shipping or production of LNG is 7.5 kilometres. The safety exclusion zone at Gladstone is 250 metres.

LNG tankers carry the energy equivalent of 55 Hiroshima bombs and must travel up a 45 kilometre long, man made channel that is 180 metres wide, taking them within less than one kilometre of the
Main Street of Gladstone. A worst case scenario LNG shipping disaster would kill and injure thousands and  take out all emergency services.

The LNG plant is being built in an earthquake zone (one category 6.5 earthquake predicted every 120 – 130 years) and within a known cyclone area (extreme cyclone events are predicted to occur more frequently). 

In Gladstone local workers cannot get employment in the LNG industry because the workers that are being employed are "fly in fly out" from overseas.

Twelve months ago the LNG companies rented every available house in Gladstone and have now booked out all hotel, motel and apartment accommodation, leaving no accommodation for travellers or tourists. Rents are too high for low paid workers and pensioners.

The knot in my stomach, which I first had when learning about gas mining in our area, returned after reading these emails. These companies will stop at nothing to get what they want and the Federal Government approves.

One of the companies involved in the LNG plant at Gladstone is Arrow Energy which sold all its viable assets in Queensland to Royal Dutch Shell, an English company listed on the London stock exchange. The rest of the company’s Queensland assets went into a new company Bow Energy and the NSW assets went to Dart Energy, the company with the exploration rights for the Putty Valley. Many of the exploration team from Arrow are now with Dart.

A LNG plant at Newcastle has been proposed, but as I researched this on Wednesday the internet satellite connection failed….. again. The modem died and I spent two hours on the phone just to get a new modem sent out by express post. In the mean time I go to our neighbours to access the net and slide off the road, only stopping a couple of feet from the edge of the creek.

During the week John C Thomson resigns from his position as President of the Lock the Gate Alliance to go back to work. The Lock the Gate Alliance was formed in Broke in November 2010 to unite all the coal and coal seam gas communities around Australia. In six months membership has grown to include 76 community groups and more than 600 individuals. The Alliance has an interim management committee and a General Meeting is planned for 11-12 June, the Queen's birthday long weekend. I recommend their website

I’m now heading off to Sydney for a couple of days of city life and to watch the royal wedding on the big screen at a party. I have raided the kids dress-up box and found a tiara. We don’t have a TV so this is a treat for me!

This week’s link
Gas Today – Australian gas industry magazine

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