CCSG Announces First Round of Research Projects

21 Aug 2012

Measuring the impact of the coal seam gas industry on Australia’s underground water supplies will be one of the initial research projects at The University of Queensland’s Centre for Coal Seam Gas.

Researchers in the three-year project will analyse underground water chemistry, thereby improving conceptualisation and numerical modelling of the impacts coal seam dewatering has on aquifers at both regional and local levels.

Water is intrinsic to the coal seam gas (CSG) extraction process. Once wells have been drilled into the coal seam, water is drawn to the surface to reduce pressure and release gas.

“Incorporation of water chemistry data that is held by CSG companies into a unified database will greatly extend understanding of basin hydrology, aquifer interactions and processes controlling the water chemistry,” said lead researcher Associate Professor Sue Vink.

“The project will result in publicly available databases that identify health and environmental risk indicators, provide a baseline for assessing aquifer connectivity, and guide water re-use, treatment and re-injection options,” she said.

In two more technically-focused projects, researchers will improve understanding of coal permeability and stimulation methods, including hydraulic fracturing, permitting better gas recovery, and establish how unwanted solid particles resulting from drilling and well operation can be reduced.

“It’s important we research and understand these processes so we can improve operations through the application of our findings,” said UQ engineering researcher Professor Victor Rudolph.

In another project, social scientists will assess and track cumulative impacts of coal seam gas development on the society and economy of a single region. They will look at the combined positive and negative impacts of multiple resource projects.

“For industry, the impacts of one proposed project can become entangled with those of their competitors. But communities and the region as a whole are experiencing the sum of these impacts,” said CCSG researcher Associate Professor Will Rifkin.

The project will focus on the CSG developments in the Surat Basin in south-east Queensland as a case study. Researchers will identify indicators of cumulative impact that government, business and members of the community agree are salient and credible.

“In other words, out of the mass of changes – housing prices, traffic levels, funding for infrastructure development – what does one track to determine how the impacts are really felt in the region? By identifying a limited number of key indicators, we can better make sense of a complex situation to assess cumulative impacts and determine how to respond to them,” said Associate Professor Rifkin.

Separately, UQ agricultural scientists are leading research on the coexistence of CSG with other resource-using activities.

“There is significant concern in the community about the emerging coal seam gas industry. The Centre has the opportunity to provide processes and indicators to assist in dealing with these concerns in future development,” said CCSG Interim Director Professor Chris Moran.

“We want to address the areas of community concern, which is why groundwater assessment and cumulative impact projects are the first to be announced by the Centre,” he said.

Full details of all research projects can be found at

Media: Anna Bednarek, Communications Manager, Sustainable Minerals Institute, phone 07 3346 4240 or 0478 487 211, email

Centre for Coal Seam Gas 
The Centre for Coal Seam Gas was established in 2011 as a research centre of the Sustainable Minerals Institute at The University of Queensland. It draws together the research capabilities of the University, which has been conducting research into coal seam gas for almost two decades. Funded by the University and industry, the Centre has four key research areas: water, geoscience, petroleum engineering and social impact, as well as a focus on education. For more information go to

Sustainable Minerals Institute 
The Sustainable Minerals Institute comprises seven research centres whose disciplinary roots lie in people, environment and production. Established in 2001, the Institute’s research covers all facets of mining from mining geology to health and safety, social responsibility and site rehabilitation. The Institute has about 350 staff and postgraduate students. For more information go to

The University of Queensland 
The University of Queensland (UQ) is one of Australia's premier learning and research institutions. Queensland’s oldest university, it has produced more than 200,000 graduates since opening in 1911. Measured through a combination of three key global university rankings — The Times Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong and QS World University — UQ is currently ranked in the top 100 of all universities worldwide. UQ is a founding member of the national Group of Eight (Go8) – a coalition of leading Australian universities. For more information go