The Perception of Community Conflict Over Coal Seam Gas in the Western Downs, Queensland, Australia.

  • Joe Stroud

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

The Western Downs, Queensland, where some of Australia’s earliest CSG extraction wells were productive at a large scale, now ~90% of one quarter of the global LNG supply comes from the Surat and Bowen Basins. The Western Downs is witness to the full gambit of rural communities and the CSG industry’s interplay and attempts at co-existence. CSG extraction production began in 1995, it became a controversial topic around 2009. The controversy centred around water and access to stakeholder land. The gas industry possesses leased tenements they have acquired from the Queensland Government to major portions of the Western Downs permitting them to extract CSG from this land, most often on existing farmed land. To get to the coal seam(s) the gas company’s drilling rigs need to drill down often over 200 to 3,000 metres through groundwater, varying geological strata and freshwater aquifers. The productive life of a CSG well can be up to 30 years in some cases, but often less. Fracking the coal seam is sometimes used to stimulate and extend CSG well productivity.

The controversy, community conflict and polarisation of opinion on CSG extraction impacts in the Western Downs, primarily regarding human and environmental health are examined. The use of an anonymous questionnaire has been employed to ensure and protect the confidentiality of the four stakeholder interest participant groups. The stakeholders: community group members; community individual participants; Australian Government officials; and gas industry employees. Social impact assessment, social licence and corporate social responsibility are discussed combined with a novel peacebuilding framework considered as a source of possible solutions. The findings on CSG extraction impacts on water systems are perceived as negative and the reason for the related perceived rural community conflict and polarisation of opinion in the Western Downs, Queensland, Australia. The means of mitigation are discussed with recommendations, together with the limitations of the study.
Date of Award13 Dec 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDaryl McPhee (Supervisor) & Bhishna Bajracharya (Supervisor)

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