A blog I read regularly posted a “sponsored” post yesterday about “natural gas”. It wasn’t in her usual writing style, and I strongly suspect she was set up.
LPG, LNG, CSG – I don’t blame you if you are totally confused. That’s what the mining companies are relying on. A quick pea shuffle and they will be allowed to extract a quick, large profit and leave a fracked countryside. There is a very, very well funded PR campaign of misinformation going on to rename coal seam gas as “natural gas from coal seams”, shortened to “natural gas”, and at the same time to convince the voting, protesting, blockading public that natural gas is clean and green and in short supply. I suspect this is part of the next stage in the campaign – sponsored posts on blogs that people who could be expected to care about the quality of our food producing land, and our environment, read. It’s cynical, ugly, and how big budget advertising messes with democracy.
Here’s the short version: LPG is liquid petroleum gas. The stuff you get in bottles for barbeques or when you fill up a car. It’s not great for the environment for all the same reasons petrol is not great. Serious action on climate change means transitioning away from it as quickly as possible.
LNG is liquid natural gas. It’s natural gas (CH4) that has been compressed and cooled so it is liquid. This makes it easier to transport, particularly for export. Australia has large conventional gas reserves mostly in WA, off the northwest coast with smaller resources in the Gippsland Basin offshore Victoria and the onshore Cooper-Eromanga Basin in South Australia. Most of it is exported.
Besides being liquefied for export, conventional gas is also used for generating electricity, heating houses, and making nitrogen fertilizers. It’s cleaner than burning coal for electricity, producing less greenhouse gases and less smog, but it’s still a significant contributor. They say we have reserves sufficient for about 60 years.
CSG is coal seam gas. It is nasty, nasty stuff. The gas itself, once it is mined and refined is CH4. It’s the getting it out that’s the problem. Coal seam gas often won’t come out on its own. It is mined in a process that uses and produces lots of contaminated water, and that often uses a process called fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, which means pumping a toxic chemical mix down a well that goes for kilometres not just down but along. Coal seam gas also results in what is euphemistically called “fugitive emissions” – which means gas that is not captured. Lots of it. A potent greenhouse contributor, and a fire hazard.
A big problem with CSG is the sheer size of the industry. There are heading towards 4,000 active wells in Queensland and the industry is expected to increase 10 fold over the next 20 years. That’s 40,000 wells. And they’re not out in marginal, uninhabited, undisputed land. Some CSG fields are in our most valuable agricultural land, and our most precious natural environments. There are three, very large new LNG plants under construction in central Queensland (Queensland Curtis LNG, Gladstone LNG and Australia Pacific LNG). They will ship LNG made from coal seam gas out through Curtis Island, requiring dredging through World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef.
It’s a huge and extremely lucrative industry. Large amounts of dollars will be thrown at PR. Let’s see if the blogosphere is up to the task of combating the spin.
And the picture? I’m doing my best to transition away from LPG. The slow combustion stove is good in winter, for cooking, heating and hot water. The solar hot water system is good for summer. In fine weather I can bake and slow cook using shunt electricity a lot of the time, but I’m still trying to find good way to grill and stir fry. This little hibachi is one of the tools I’m playing with using. I can collect a barrow load of sticks in a short walk, and it helps keep the area around the house clear of fire hazard at the same time.