The Independent Expert Scientific Committee on Coal Seam Gas and Large Coal Mining Development (IESC) continues to promote its work by meeting with interested parties to ensure the role and function of the Committee is well understood.
Explanatory Notes Virtual Masterclass Series
In May and June of 2021, the IESC hosted a series of virtual masterclasses. The virtual series, targeted at industry consultants, included masterclasses based on each of the IESC Explanatory Notes. The masterclass sessions, presented by each note’s authors, provided the opportunity to describe how the methods in each Explanatory Note can be applied and to answer questions from the participants.
The series comprised three masterclass sessions:
- 26 May 2021 – Uncertainty analysis–Guidance for groundwater modelling within a risk management framework
- 2 June 2021 – Assessing groundwater-dependent ecosystems
- 9 June 2021 – Deriving site-specific guideline values for physico-chemical parameters and toxicants
The masterclass series was strongly supported by industry consultants, with 59 individual attendees from 17 different organisations attending throughout the series. Attendees joined the virtual event from locations throughout Australia as well as from the USA, Canada and New Zealand.
The series was well received by attendees, with approximately 90% of participants across the masterclasses reporting that the objectives of the masterclasses were met to a high or very high degree.
On 19 June 2019, the IESC held the first Industry Workshop, with over 20 representatives from the coal and coal seam gas industries and industry peak bodies. The purpose of the workshop was to increase awareness of the IESC’s role and functions and encourage uptake of the Information Guidelines to improve the quality of information provided in Environmental Impact Assessments.
Presentations and plenary and table discussions on particular themes provided a unique opportunity for industry to discuss their experiences, challenges and successes in developing Environmental Impact Assessments, undertaking risk assessments and improving knowledge in a participatory process with open, respectful and constructive dialogue. The workshop provided a valuable opportunity for the IESC members to listen to industry and increase their understanding of industry perspectives and priorities.
Key discussion topics included:
- how to address risk in the context of the protection and management of water resources and water-dependent ecosystems
- opportunities for enhancing data collection
- primary knowledge gaps when considering Environmental Impact Assessments and risk analysis processes
- opportunities for better alignment and integration with other research.
Participants provided positive feedback on the facilitation of open engagement, useful knowledge exchange and networking at the workshop. Many appreciated the opportunity for candid discussion with the IESC and encouraged their continuing engagement.
Panel discussion during the IESC Symposium.
On 19 June 2018 the IESC hosted a Research Symposium at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. The symposium highlighted how research has advanced scientific understanding of the impacts of coal seam gas extraction and large coal mining developments on water flow, surface and groundwater connectivity, water quality changes, ecosystem impacts and cumulative impacts. The focus of the day was the $19 million of research projects commissioned by the Australian Government between 2013 and 2017. The IESC guided these projects, it is one of the IESC's functions to advise the Australian Government on research into the impacts of coal resource development on Australia’s water resources.
The research has improved understanding in key areas and strengthened the science to support regulatory decision-making. It has been used by the IESC to inform advice given to regulators.
An overview of the research presented at the IESC Research Symposium is available in the IESC Research Summary. Technical reports can be found at Coal and coal seam gas - Science and research.
IESC at Mandalong Underground Coal Mine
Site visit to Mandalong Underground Coal Mine
In March 2018 the IESC visited the Mandalong mine in the Newcastle coalfields near Morisset to get a first-hand understanding of the site operations. The mine supplies the Hunter region power stations.
The IESC had the opportunity to go underground and observe a continuous miner (a mining machine that produces a constant flow of ore from the working face of the mine) both cutting coal and roof and rib bolting in action and to have explained how issues such as subsidence (localised lowering of the land surface) were being managed on site.
Further information on subsidence is available in the IESC’s fact sheet: Subsidence from longwall coal mining
IESC members inspect the centrifuge: (from left) Dr Wendy Timms, Dr Ian Prosser and Dr Andrew Boulton
University of New South Wales – Water Research Laboratory
The IESC visited the University of New South Wales Water Research Laboratory in November 2017, to view a demonstration of the centrifuge which is one of only two of its type in the world.
The centrifuge can characterise and model fluid flow processes in geology over spatial and time scales that are not otherwise possible, simulating flow over thousands of years within a reasonable experimental time frame of weeks or months.
IESC visit the University of Queensland’s Centre for Coal Seam Gas
Visit to the University of Queensland’s Centre for Coal Seam Gas
At the Centre for Coal Seam Gas in August 2017, researchers briefed the IESC on current projects including the 3D Water Atlas a publicly available transparent view of groundwater variability over time and space.
The visit concluded with a lab tour in the School of Chemical Engineering to see the new high pressure, well simulator facility for plugging old oil and gas wells once they have been decommissioned. The centre gave a demonstration of the large scale, experimental well bore for investigating and measuring gas and water flows and how they interact.
Visit to the Surat and Bowen Basins
In May 2017, the IESC travelled to Emerald and Roma in central Queensland to visit an open cut coal mine and a coal seam gas facility to gain a first-hand understanding of the sites’ operations. The site visits were very informative and helped the IESC gain a better understanding of the ground operations of these sites.
Glencore’s Oaky Creek Coal Mine
At Oaky Creek, in the Bowen Basin between Middlemount and Tieri, open cut mining began in 1982 and underground mining in 1989. The mine consists of two longwall mining operations and a coal preparation plant that produces medium volatile coking coal.
The IESC had the opportunity to inspect a reverse osmosis water treatment plant and hear a briefing by site staff regarding the plant process as well as the mine’s water storage and management operations.
I appreciated the efforts by the on-site staff to explain their operations, to demonstrate their techniques for rehabilitation and mitigation and to answer our many questions about the day-to-day operations.
(Dr Andrew Boulton IESC Member)
The IESC at Glencore’s Oaky Creek Coal Mine
Australia Pacific LNG Reedy Creek Coal Seam Gas Water Treatment Facility
The Reedy Creek coal seam gas site is located north east of Roma in the Surat basin and host’s Australia’s largest treated water aquifer recharge scheme.
The IESC saw some of the site’s operations focusing on infrastructure for managing water resources and management, and were particularly interested to see the extensive onsite water treatment and aquifer reinjection facilities.
Getting out into the field and seeing the coal seam gas operation and hearing first-hand from industry experts about its intricate operational details was incredibly valuable.
(Professor Craig Simmons IESC Member)
The IESC at the Australia Pacific LNG Reedy Creek site