The Queensland component of the gas is in the Cooper-Eromanga Basin, and Professor Lowe found that if just 25 per cent of the resource was recovered, the emissions it would produce would be “incompatible” with Queensland’s emission reduction targets.
“The high level of production would be about 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, and Australia’s current total emissions from all causes is about 500 million tonnes a year.”
The Queensland government has pledged to reduce emissions by 30 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030, but Professor Lowe’s report found that even “the low export scenario would result in Scope 1 emissions alone that are more than 50 per cent of Queensland’s proposed reduction of 31 million tonnes a year from all sources by 2030.”
“Even a modest level of production would be incompatible with Queensland stated emission reduction targets,” he said.
But the Queensland government said its emissions targets were “achievable”.
The Lake Eyre Basin contains an estimated 334 trillion cubic feet of “unconventional gas”, meaning to release the gas from the predominantly shale rock formation, gas wells would need to be depressurised by extracting groundwater or hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
There is concern among traditional owners and graziers in the area, but the Queensland government spokesperson said that additional approvals were still required before gas development could occur in the region, and they would be “subject to stringent assessment criteria”.
“The gas there contains significant amounts of carbon dioxide, so just producing the gas to be burned somewhere else would result in the release of significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the Australian atmosphere,” he said.
The other factor was the “fugitive emissions” from gas production, the methane gas that either escapes or has to be vented from production pipelines for safety.
Queensland has the highest fugitive emissions from coal and gas mining in the nation, and they continue to rise.
“Methane is a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and so the leakage, if gas were produced in the Channel Country, would add significantly to our greenhouse gas production locally,” Professor Lowe said.
A spokesperson for the Queensland government said it had a plan to reduce fugitive emissions.
“All these gas companies at the moment are trying to produce as much gas and ship as much gas as they possibly can,” Bruce Robertson said, an Energy Finance Analyst with the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
“Even if it’s not contracted gas, they’re making enormous money on it.”