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Australia’s Gas: Environmental Impacts with Both Extraction and Processing

November 7, 2011

On ABC’s four corners report tonight, questions are raised about the possible impact on environmental quality of the LNG port under construction at Gladstone harbour.

Australia is currently undergoing a massive resource boom – including in natural gas exploitation from coal seam gas.

The report finds that there are fisheries health issues at present in Gladstone harbour, which may or may not have some association with the LNG project.

It is unclear whether dredging associated with the development of the massive new LNG processing facility, or recent high rainfall events, may be the cause of strange colouration and illness discovered in local fish.

In addition, a signficant uptick in ship traffic associated with LNG terminal development brings further dangers including introduction of alien species, oil spills, and direct strike on protected species such as dugongs.

The context for these questions is the intervention of UNESCO to question whether the development may negatively impact the universal value of the great barrier reef – a World Heritage site.

There are six major LNG export expansion projects planned inshore from the Great Barrier Reef.  A further coal export terminal is proposed at Bathurst Bay in northern Queensland.

The report states that “the resources boom will profoundly test the reefs resilience”.

In March 2012 a team from the UNESCO committee will be in Australia to consider potential cumulative effects of resource projects on the World Heritage site.

Already, Australia’s gas industry faces tough questions about the environmental impacts of upstream gas extraction on water quality and aquifer levels.  The gas development industry has come into conflict with farmers, environmentalists, and environmentalists.

Now, tough questions are being asked about the environmental impacts of the downstream processing and export facilities – in the jewel of the crown of Australia’s tourism industry.  The social and environmental integrity of Australia’s economic development, currently largely based on gas and coal resource extraction and export, is in the balance.


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