Archive for May, 2012

Surat Underground Water Impact Report – part 2

This is the second post on the subject of the Draft Surat Underground Water Impact Report now out for review after the Queensland Water Commission today took its finding to Roma yesterday and Chinchilla today. See yesterday’s post on the background to the report and the geological formations involved.
This post looks at how the model was derived and examines the monitoring regime put in place by the QWC.  There were three key steps in designing the flow model: conceptualisation, construction and calibration.  In the conceptualisation phase, the designers took into account geological data and formation contacts in databases held by the Geological Survey of Queensland and the Department of Natural Resources Groundwater Database.
They also took into account the distribution and depth of the geological layers of the Walloon Coal Measures based on previous studies and developed hydraulic parameter estimates based on pump and drill tests, existing models and reported results.
They devised 19 model layers based the formations from the shallowest (Condamine Alluvium) to the deepest (Permian Sediments) and mapped out the groundwater flow between the layers. The layers are recharged by rain in the outcrop areas on the edges of the Basin. The model is further complicated by the Walloon Coal Measures (the main CSG bearing formation in the Surat Basin) which itself contains various layers of sediment of varying permeability. The model allocates three layers to the Walloon for simplicity.
The model covers an area 550km x 660km each divided into a 1.5sq km cell stacked into 19 layers.  Once constructed with initial hydraulic parameters, the model was calibrated to replicate pre-CSG conditions in 1995.  It was calibrated using groundwater levels from 1,500 bores in the groundwater database.  The model was designed to make predictions from the 1995 data both including and excluding petroleum impacts.  They added uncertainty analysis to provide 200 different predictions of drawdown for each model cell at different time periods. The upper and low five percent of the 200 were discarded as outliers and the maximum value of the remaining predictions was used in the report.
The report estimates the CSG industry will draw an average of 95,000 megalitres of water a year over the life of the industry.  It will be higher in the next three years as the industry expands with the QWC with an average of 125,000 ML a year over the period.  This is why getting the water monitoring strategy right is so important.
 
The water monitoring strategy involves monitoring of water levels in coal seams and surrounding aquifers. It will not monitor water quality (eg for contamination from fracking) or the volume of water extracted from wells. QWC will not conduct the monitoring – that will be left to the gas companies. Someone said to me today that was like leaving Ned Kelly in charge of the bank vault but the QWC assures us the companies have legal responsibilities and any anomalies will quickly be exposed.
The monitoring has six broad objectives. 1. Establish background trends not attributable to CSG. 2.Identify changes in aquifer conditions in petroleum development areas. 3. Identify changes in aquifer conditions near critical groundwater use (eg towns that rely on groundwater), 4 Identify changes in aquifer conditions near springs. 5. Improve future groundwater flow monitoring 6. Improve understanding of connectivity between aquifers.
There will be a regional monitoring network which will have 142 monitoring sites across the region (27 already exist) which will have 498 monitoring points (104 already exist). These sites will target different strata of the Surat and Bowen Basin including the Condamine Alluvium, Main Range Volcanics, Mooga Sandstone, Orallo Formation, Gubberamunda Sandstone, Westbourne Formation, Springbok Sandstone, Walloon Coal Measures, Hutton Sandstone, Evergreen Formation, Precipice Sandstone, Clematis Sandstone and Bandanna Formation.
At each site, water data is collected at least once a fortnight.  Queensland’s regulatory requirements provide for the UWIR to be updated every three years but there will also be an annual report.

May 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm Leave a comment

Draft Surat Underground Water Impact Report – part 1

 
Surat Cumulative Management Area
I had much underground water on my mind today.  That was because I attended both sessions today in Roma where the Qld Water Commission were explaining their Draft Underground Water Impact Report (pdf, 8 meg) for the Surat Cumulative Management Area to the public.  The quick and dirty bottom line is that I don’t think the data supports a moratorium of the industry and as a worst-case scenario says the impact is moderate and manageable. However this is the first of several posts that will drill down into the report in some detail.
The Surat Cumulative Management Area is a rough triangle drawn between Emerald in the north, Roma in the west and Toowoomba in the south-east. The geology of the region is complicated as the nature of the water. I had several concepts challenged including what are the Bowen and Surat Basins, what is the Great Artesian Basin and where is the gas stored. The Great Artesian Basin is not a continuous geological formation but a hydrogeological basin across many alternating geological layers. Similarly I used to think the Bowen Basin as the land roughly inland of Mackay including all the big coalmining areas of Emerald and Moranbah. The Surat Basin roughly went from Dalby to Roma.  But it turns out my understanding is that is faulty too. The Bowen Basin lives below the Surat Basin, it is only in the strip-mining areas at Moranbah where its coal formations come to the surface.
Petrol and gas is a different mining process to coal and covered by different legislation.  The Draft Underground Water Report was required because the law allows petroleum tenure owners to explore for petrol and gas on private property and by necessity, there is some interference with the water on those tenures including the removal of the water. This is particularly so in coal seam gas production which works by reducing water pressure in the seams to release the gas.  In the Surat Cumulative Management Area most of the mining is done in the Walloon Coal Measures (Surat Basin) or Bandanna Formation (Bowen Basin) which are geological layers of the Great Artesian Basin which have low permeability rocks alternating with high economic value aquifers and feed important springs.
The problem is that when water is removed, it affects a wide area around the gas well. This is compounded if there are a number of nearby wells also drawing out water. Today most of the groundwater in the Surat Region that comes to the surface is used by agriculture, industry, stock and domestic – some  215,000 megalitres a year. CSG is only responsible for 17,000 ML at the moment but that will rise sharply in the coming years as the four big projects (Santos GLNG, Origin APLNG, British Gas QCLNG and Arrow Surat Gas Project) take off.
When water is removed from the coal formations, water from surrounding aquifers will flow in.  So when the water pressure is reduced, it doesn’t necessarily mean less water. However it does mean there will be a decline in the water level of the bore that taps that aquifer.  The question is by why how much and to answer that question the Queensland Water Commission developed a groundwater model to predict the impacts of the CSG industry. They used vast reams of already known data on water levels and bores which they added to the known plans of tenure holders plus some science about the way underground water moves through the region.
The resulting flow model was complex. There are 19 interacting layers and three million individual cells in the model. It was calibrated to get close matches with known 1995 results from bores giving the team a high degree of certainty they were in the ballpark. They also added ‘uncertainty analysis’ taking the 95 percentile of 200 different predictions for each well. In other words,  they were taking the worst case scenario in 20.
For each well the QWC set a trigger threshold of drawdown.  For consolidated aquifers such as sandstone, the trigger was of five metres for consolidated aquifers, it was two metres for unconsolidated (shallow alluvial) aquifers such as the Condamine Alluvium and just 0.2 metre drop for springs, including watercourses connected to springs.
If the modelling showed the “Immediate Affected Area” (an IAA) of that well exceeded that threshold in the next three years, then the responsible CSG company must undertake restoration measures to restore the bore’s capacity to supply water, or provide the bore owner with an alternative water supply.  This is known in the legislation as “make good” requirements. It could mean adjusting the bore, improving the pressure, drilling a new bore or finding an alternative source. QWC have identified 85 bores in the Surat Region which will exceed the trigger, all of them in the Walloon Coal Measures.
There was also a secondary measure of long-term impact if an IAA exceeded the threshold at any time in the future. This modelling identified 528 bores affected, mostly in the Walloon but some in the Springbok Sandstone (104), Hutton Sandstone (23) and Gubberamunda Sandstone (1).  It is less clear what the Commission expects to happen with these bores though the Roma session talked about gas tenure holders being “proactive” with bore owners in this category.
Part 2 of this will discuss the monitoring regime QWC is putting into place to determine the trigger points.

May 29, 2012 at 1:26 am Leave a comment

Manne bites Australian

Not that it should be a surprise to anyone but Australia’s national daily newspaper The Australian has been wasting scarce journalist resources on a vendetta again. The latest victim is one of the country’s leading media writers Margaret Simons whose 2007 book The Content Makers remains the definitive account of the geography of Australian media (though someone needs to update it for the last five years). In recent weeks, The Aus has unleashed its attack dogs over claims Simons has somehow caused a breach of practice by her actions in the recent Finkelstein Review into media which in turn was inspired by the serious criminal behaviour of one of The Australian’s sister publications in the UK.  There are many ways in which this attack on Simons is risible and they are all brilliantly exposed in Robert Manne’s new Monthlyessay.

The point Manne is making about the tactics of the newspaper is twofold. Firstly, it doesn’t matter if your allegations are true or false you just have to make enough of them and some of the mud will stick. Secondly, it is another shot across the bows of anyone who dares be critical of the newspaper with treatment similar to Julie Posetti and Larissa Behrend which will be dragged out time and time again whenever a punchbag is needed.
The newspaper fulfils a crucial function in our democracy as one of the few media outlets with a truly national outlook. But it would appear the power conferred by being one of the central squares of Australia’s public sphere has gone to the broadsheet’s head. In its constant efforts to defend itself against critics, it has warped in on itself and forgotten what it is there for: to give Australians enough information to give them a useful perspective on the important news of the day.
The biggest problem with the Australian is that appears not to want to learn from its mistakes. It never admits it is wrong. Under Chris Mitchell in particular (editor in chief since 2003) it has been front and centre in a culture war.  The newspaper and its Saturday companion have built up an armada of columnists which can recite the party line in their sleep who regularly trot out the house rules.
There are still enough good writers at the paper to provide the news function. They cover politics, business, law and international affairs in some detail (with the help of good Murdoch sister papers such as the Wall St Journal and The Times). But their editorial and opinion pages have become barren wastelands of News groupthink where writers like Greg Sheridan, Chris Kenny, Dennis Shanahan and Christopher Pearson flourish. Even when turning to unorthodox opinion it favour those who unorthodoxy is mostly directed against the left and the greens (Brendan O’Neill, Frank Furedi, Bjorn Lomborg) .
As Manne said (and as I can corroborate from discussions with News journalists) there are many within the organisation that are appalled by the blatant and biased political tone set by the editor and his inner team. Manne reckons they should speak up which would be a better way of dealing with issue than any outside body Finkelstein could recommend. Indeed there is a precedence when journalists at the Australian went on strike in 1975 in protest as Murdoch’s open support of Malcolm Fraser in the lead up to the election.
But it is unlikely any uprising will come from within. News is one of the last 20th century media empires and most workers there fear for their future. It is not making a graceful transition to the digital age though it remains an extraordinary wealthy company and very powerful in the local market. The Australian, often described as a Murdoch vanity project, is not driving any of this wealth. But it remains very influential with its high demographic readership and its access to power. Politicians of both major parties are wary of criticising it though the Greens have dubbed it hate media.
This is unsurprising as much of Mitchell’s vitriol is reserved for the party which his paper has openly called to be destroyed at the ballot box. Why The Australian even feels it has a right to make such a recommendation is a revealing aspect of its DNA. “We know best,” it screams and we will punish anyone who has the temerity to think otherwise. No wonder it cannot deal with the sharing tools of 21st century social media when its views are steeped in 20th century paternalism. It prefers intimidation to trust as a way of maintaining its authority. But The Australian is on borrowed time and not just because Murdoch will sooner or later die. Its thrashed brand is a tragedy as much of Chris Mitchell’s making as Rupert’s and one which must not be repeated by whatever colonises its habitat when it is gone.

May 25, 2012 at 10:00 pm 2 comments

Ireland set to vote a grudging yes on Fiscal Treaty

Ireland is set to vote in no less than its ninth European referendum next week. As they have done in the previous eight, the major two parties are supporting the yes vote. But as in the past, this is no guarantee the ayes will have it. This is because like many of the previous ones the issue on the table is obscure and Austere Ireland has long since lost its romance with Europe. Those supporting the treaty have issued dire warnings of a “no” vote.

The latest vote is on the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economicand Monetary Union more commonly known as the EU fiscal compact or EU fiscal treaty. The treaty tries to put in place a number of measures to get EU countries to balance their books and put an end to excessive borrowing.  Ireland is one of the worst offenders though is slowly on the mend. The Irish economy has stabilised after three years of contraction. The European Commission forecasts a GDP rise of 0.5% this year and all the quarterly fiscal targets under the bail-out program have been met.
Ireland needs a constitutional change to ratify the compact.  Article 29 of the 1937 Constitution deals with international relations.  Article 29.4 has been modified a number of times to signify the various EU treaties Ireland is a signatory to. If passed, the 10th subsection of Article 29.4 of the Constitution will add a clause to the effect that: “The State may ratify the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union done at Brussels on the 2nd day of March 2012.”
Irish Broadcaster RTE has published a detailed breakdown of the 16 articles of the treaty and how they affect Ireland. The key article is Article 3 which sets out the requirements how to run balanced or surplus budgets and how it will be monitored and reinforced. The article defines an upper structural deficit of 0.5% of GDP where a structural deficit is defined as one where an economy is losing money despite operating at full potential.
Each country must meet a medium term objective which is a program of action to reduce their debt. The original Maastricht Treaty had a Stability and Growth Pact which had targets for public debt which had to be supported by annual programs. It had a 3% rule for budget deficits but it went out the window after both heavyweights Germany and France breached the upper limit in 2003-2004.
That caused a rule change in 2005 to make it more flexible. Many countries hid the true extent of their budget situation – none more so than Greece so that by the time the truth emerged the damage was done. In response, the EU introduced the Six Pack in 2011 of five regulations and one directive and the Fiscal Compact builds on this. The Six Pack has strict enforcement of debt limits with countries subject to monitoring and penalties for breeches. These penalties would kick in earlier before countries could no longer afford to pay them. It also clamps down on property bubbles and makes it easier for countries to vote for sanctions against those who break the rules.
The Six Pack had an upper structural deficit of 1.0% of GDP which the Treaty reduces by half. Those against it such as Sinn Fein have dubbed it the Austerity Treaty. Party president Gerry Adams said it surrendered “significant control of Irish fiscal and budgetary matters to unelected and unaccountable EU officials.”
Those in favour have issued the usual warnings to the consequences of a no vote. Sean O’Driscoll, chairman of the Glen Dimplex manufacturing group said failure to support the treaty would mean Ireland leaving the euro. “Ireland signed up to the currency in 1999 [and] that brought rules – rules which we broke by allowing our economy to become inflated,” he said. “We now need to stay within the system and we need to argue our case within the system.”
The Economist described the referendum as a battle between conflicting emotions among voters. “The fear of many that rejecting the treaty will mean no access to EU finance, potentially sending Ireland hurtling down the Greek path to ruin, against the anger of many about the hardship imposed by four years of austerity,” The Economist said. But in the knowledge that Ireland has grudgingly supported all the other recent Treaties, the Economist was prepared to grant a narrow victory to the “yes” vote. “At the moment it looks as if fear will trump anger,” they said.

May 24, 2012 at 11:23 pm 1 comment

Arthur Moore, oil man

On October 10, 1931 it was the Western Star’s solemn duty to report some sad news. The news had reached Roma from Longreach that Mr Arthur Moore, superintendent of Longreach’s Oil Bore had been killed in an explosion. Known as a careful man who rarely took a drink and who was intimate with the science of boring for oil, his death was a mystery.

From reading Moore’s log books, the coroner deduced he was making a third attempt to shoot the bore and had a consignment of caps newly arrived from Brisbane and a metre-long torpedo with six plugs of gelignite. The mixture exploded prematurely as he tried to place a battery cap. It was likely a faulty explosives timer concocted with a pocket watch brought an end to the life of one of Roma’s great but unheralded oil men.

Arthur Moore was an Englishman, born in Lime Regis, Dorset in 1876. How he spent his early years is not known but he arrived in Australia in 1910 thirsting for adventure in a new land. He entered into the service of the International Boring Company and was posted across Queensland boring artesian water for the state’s growing demands. Aged 40, he signed up in 1916 for the AIF and went off to Europe with the newly formed Australian Flying Corps.

After the war finished he stayed on in England to train in oil development. On his return he came to Queensland’s growing oil capital: Roma. Here he was placed in charge of the government oil bore on Hospital Hill in 1920 as the first non American to hold this position. It was Moore who released a big flow of oil at QG Number 4 well while removing casing and this was the first oil to be condensed in Roma.

It was here he met local woman Esther “Essie” Nind, the only daughter of two well-known Roma residents. Moore married Essie in 1921 aged 45 (she was 27) and they had one daughter. After visiting America, Moore was convinced there was oil in commercial quantities in Roma. “Prospecting in Queensland,” he said in 1923, “should be carried out on the same type of plant used for drilling artesian water.”

In 1924, the Western Star reported Moore was made manager of the newly formed Queensland Petroleum Limited who secured prospecting permits over Forest Vale and Mitchell Downs. Moore was hired to be superintendent for three years Moore also went to Texas to learn more about drilling and later took charge of drilling operations in New Guinea. Roma’s booming oil business lured him back in 1928 to become manager of Roma Cornwall Dome oil operation until it went bust.

Moore went back to England where he was accepted into the Institute of Petroleum Technologists of London. He would also drill in New Zealand before heading to Longreach. He was remembered as one of the first non Americans to be feted in the field of drilling and someone who kept meticulous notes on all aspects of oil exploration.

May 21, 2012 at 10:04 pm Leave a comment

The extinction of Pityus Mancityus

Manchester City’s stunning Premier League triumph was achieved in typically Madchester style. As someone wrote in the aftermath, the second half of their final game at home against Queens Park Rangers was a microcosm of their season. Comfortably winning the league, then almost throwing it away before finally snatching it back at the end.  It was an astonishing climax to a wild ride and probably just as well they won as the alternative would have been one calamity too far for a side renowned for its ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

 
It was an expensive triumph. Abi Dhabi’s Sheik Mansour has poured almost a billion pounds into his expensive toy but he has achieved his first target of winning the Premier League within four seasons. As well as their expensive assemblage of players, Mansour also recruited a hardnosed winning manager in Roberto Mancini who took Inter to three Italian titles before adding the English crown to his collection. The talk now is of moving forward to collect European silverware, a task that fellow billionaire Roman Abramovich has found beyond him in his reign as Chelsea moneybags – though he has one more chance in Munich this weekend.
As a Liverpool fan, I remain a fully paid up member of ABU (Anyone But United) for at least one season.  I have to say I enjoyed the way the title was snatched from Manchester United’s grasp on Sunday. I thought they were a poor team but I thought the same in 2003 and 2011 when they also managed to win the league. Sir Alex Ferguson has long ago proved himself the best manager ever to grace the British game and time after time he has come up with the goods to coach United sides in the fine art of grinding out victories.
I might be persuaded to leave ABU if City put together a run of title successes but I’m not convinced that will happen. I certainly wouldn’t bet against United coming back next season, having just lost out on goal difference this year. Defensively they are almost impregnable while the ageless pair of Giggs and Scholes will be back for another season, playing as well as ever. Wayne Rooney appears at the peak of his considerable powers well supported by the likes of Hernandez and Valencia though their midfield needs bolstering.  The memory of that 6-1 shellacking at Old Trafford (the size of the victory ultimately decided the title) should be enough motivation to do better next time round.
City meanwhile may struggle to keep up the momentum next season and could be distracted by a longer European campaign.  They will have money to spend in the summer but there will be much to spend it on with bad boys Tevez and Balotelli and relative failure Dzeko all likely to move on.  They also rely too much of Yaya Toure which is great when he is on the park, but a risky policy as shown when he limped off injured against QPR. Like United however, Mancini has drilled them into a formidable defensive unit with Kompany and company backed up by Joe Hart who has the chance to earn back the good name of English goalkeepers that was lost around 20 years ago.
Chelsea and Arsenal will continue to flip around for third and fourth with Tottenham there or thereabouts. Redknapp has proved a shrewd acquisitor of talent in the transfer market with Van der Vaart and Modric both inspired signings while developing the considerable talents of Bale before the inevitable transfer to Old Trafford (or maybe the City of Manchester stadium). I’m not sure if Newcastle’s season is a one-off or they are back in the mix. Papiss Cisse was a sensation at the end of the season as was Demba Ba at the start and getting them both to click at the same time will be crucial to their chance.
My own team Liverpool look an absolute shambles and it is probably just as well they did not win the cup final as a second trophy would have disguised the fact it was their worst season in living memory. The fact is if they keep their 2012 form into next season, they would have to be among the relegation candidates. Their new stadium plans are in disarray, King Kenny’s crown is in tatters and they are a long way from getting back into the Top Four let alone making a title challenge. Gerrard is looking past it, Suarez and Carroll is not working, and none of Downing, Adams or Henderson have risen to the challenge. It’s difficult to see anything but hard times for the Reds in 2012-2013.

May 15, 2012 at 11:05 pm Leave a comment

Releasing Ranjini: Why ASIO is wrong

Getup’s latest cause is the detention without trial of a Sri Lankan woman and her two small children.  The webpage “No Detention without appeal” saysRanjini and her six and eight year old sons have been detained indefinitely without charges for four days.

Ranjini survived the Sri Lankan war but her first husband did not and was killed in 2006. She arrived on a boat with her children on Christmas Island in 2010. From there they were moved to Leonora in WA, then Inverbrackie, SA in 2011, and finally to community detention in Brisbane.
Ranjini met Melbourne man Ganesh while he was in Brisbane on holiday late last year, and she moved to Melbourne with the children in order to wed him this year. The Department of Immigration verified her and the boys as refugees in September last year pending Australian Security Intelligence Organisation security clearance. If they could convince ASIO they could then obtain visas to enable them to stay in Australia.
After months of agonising wait, they fell at the last hurdle. On Thursday, Ranjini was told to pick up her kids from school in Melbourne and meet Department of officials. They had bad news for her. ASIO had done a security assessment on her and came up with a negative assessment. They put Ranjini and the children on a plane to Sydney and sent to Villawood detention centre. They are there indefinitely and have no right of appeal.
Media reports have not reported the surname of Ganesh or Ranjini. The Age said they got married last month with the approval of the Department of Immigration. The boys were enrolled at Mill Park Primary School. Ganesh told The Age he was allowed only five minutes to chat with them before they were taken away. “We were happy and the kids were even happier … we wanted to start new life with hope. But now we are shocked…We are separated. There has been too much pain before. Are we going to be put through the same pain in Australia as well?”
On Friday Ganesh flew to Sydney and sent a text back to a family friend in Melbourne that the trio were okay but he didn’t understand why they were detained.  Now in Villawood, ABC Lateline says Ranjini and her family face a bleak future. “They and 46 other refugees with negative ASIO assessments are locked up indefinitely with no right of appeal,” Lateline said on Friday. “This morning one of the refugees attempted suicide at a detention facility in Melbourne.”
The program quoted the Refugee Action Coalition who spoke of fellow detainee Kumar who has been in detention for 35 months and was turned down by ASIO a year ago. With no recourse to legal means to end his incarceration and return to Sri Lanka impossible, the 36-year-old  Kumar attempted by hanging at the Melbourne immigration transit accommodation centre. He was dropped down by fellow refugees who found him at around 1.30am this morning.  He was the second inmate in a month to attempt suicide at the same facility.
Currently there is no right of review or appeal against ASIO findings. The indefinite detention of ASIO negative refugees is the subject of a complaint by Australian refugees to the Geneva UN High Commission for Human Rights. The Australian government has been given until July to respond to a complaint. A Parliamentary Committee has also recommended that there should be an appeal process in a damning report on mandatory detention and Getup called it a basic principle of justice.
A UNHCR policy document on Australia’s mandatory detention policy and reluctance to release asylum seekers to alternative measures has nothing to do with national security concerns either. On 22 August 2002, the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade asked the ASIO Director-General about the security screening of asylum seekers and learned that out of 5,986 screenings conducted since 2000, not one posed a national security risk. The same Committee also heard no evidence of a statistical linkage between asylum seekers and criminality (other than immigration violations).
But Ranjini, Kumar and the others have few political supporters in an era where a crude call to “stop the boats” is an electable mantra. Governments from Howard onwards have tried to demonise asylum seekers and maintain a wall between refugees and public sympathy. Crucially Getup has photos of Ranjini and the boys with which to humanise this campaign.  The test for Attorney-General Nicola Roxon will be to humanely deal with these cases without creating an electoral wedge for Labor’s already badly beaten back.  I don’t always agree with Getup, but they are right on the money with this. “No matter what,” Getup said. “We mustn’t allow anyone – let alone children – to be detained indefinitely without charge, trial or appeal.”

May 15, 2012 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

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