Saturday, 14 May 2011

Hunter coal, gas and vineyard tour

The first frost for 2011 covered the Putty Valley this week. AGL opens an information office in Singleton and we take a quick tour of mines and vineyards in the Hunter.

Clear skies means frosts around here and this week we had the first frost of the year with the temperature down to two degrees on the verandah. The solar hot water is back on and the slow combustion fire is now continually burning. The big fire place is lit up only when we have guests and then it is used for cooking too. As we cut, split and cart the timber we conserve as much as we can.

Talks with AGL
During the week I called into the new AGL office at 85B John Street, Singleton and talked gas with Soibhan and learnt the following –

  • Methane gas is lighter than air so if there is a leak it goes up.
  • Wells are checked once a week by person with a gas monitor, and also irregularities show up back at the main facility on a monitoring system.
  • A site for a test or production well has to be 4000sqm to accommodate rigs etc.
  • Vertical drills operate during the day only but horizontal drilling goes all night as well.
  • Fraccing fluids are usually stored in lined open ponds.
  • In areas prone to flooding weather monitors are used and if large amounts of rain are predicted equipment is moved so it cannot be washed away.
  • Water from production wells can be sent to Windsor or Kurri Kurri.
  • Fraccing fluid waste from Camden goes to Windsor.
Hunter coal, gas and wine tour
Driving to Singleton the air pollution was evident as the strong winds whipped up dust off the mountains of rubble from open cut coal mines. Rows of trees attempt to shield the mines from public view, but the devastation of open cut coal mining cannot be hidden. The mining companies are meant to rehabilitate the land but at a forum in Singleton in March one of the speakers, Richard Pearson admitted “We have to get up to world standards of rehabilitation.”

 We passed more open cut coal mines on Broke Road on our way to AGL’s two gas flow testing wells – HB01 and HB02 near the small township of Broke. Signs attached to fences and strung up in trees suggest that the majority of the community object to AGL’s presence in the area.

One of the wells very close to houses has many trees planted around it to appease objectors. Cattle graze near the wells but fireweed and thistles are prolific, causing another problem for more conscientious neighbours.

Driving from Broke to Milbrodale we stopped for lunch at Nightingale Vineyard. Several vineyards with restaurants and accommodation are along this scenic road which joins the Putty Road. Will the wells spread out along this road from Broke?

The only other lunch patrons at Nightingale were two guys wearing short shorts on a freezing cold day. They were staying at the Vineyard while working for the coal mines. As we were about to leave a rowdy group of ten came in for lunch. They were from Christchurch New Zealand and after enquiries told us that they had to put money in a jar if they used the word ‘earthquake’. Nightingale is one of the few Vineyards open for lunch on Wednesday. We can recommend the angus steak and the shiraz.

NSW gas needs
If AGL’s 78 wells produce 6% of NSW gas then approximately 1300 wells are needed to produce all NSW needs.

If the Camden daily production is 0.016PJ x 365 = 5.84PJ per year, then the year’s consumption for NSW is around 100PJ.

Report on Geoscience Australia on CSG in March 2010

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