There has been a lot of discussion in recent weeks about the emerging carbon capture and storage industry. This has raised a number of concerns in relation to the Surat Basin project proposed by Carbon Transport and Storage Corporation (CTSCo) currently in the Environment Impact Statement (EIS) stage.
The key concern is the risks the project presents to water security for agriculture in the region.
CTSCo, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Swiss multinational Glencore, are seeking permission to inject 110,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, for three years, into the Great Artesian Basin Precipice Sandstone aquifer. The Precipice Sandstone aquifer is located at a site near Moonie in the Western Downs Regional Council area and the CO2 for the project is proposed to be sourced from the Millmerran coal-fired power station.
Carbon capture and storage, known as CCS, refers to a sequence of complex engineering processes to capture, transport and inject carbon dioxide underground. Carbon injection into water aquifers is a relatively tested and known technology for carbon storage globally.
However, research indicates that the application of carbon capture and storage within a water resource aquifer is unprecedented and the injection of CO2 into a viable water supply aquifer has not been done in the world before. Carbon injection appears to normally be done into hypersaline groundwater (groundwater exceeding salt concentration levels of sea water) or former gas reservoirs.
Great Artesian Basin groundwater within the Surat Basin is currently fully utilised by agriculture and communities reliant on this valuable water source. Businesses looking for expansion opportunities through water supply will need to look to deeper and more secure aquifers such as the Precipice Sandstone, with a number of entitlements already approved to do just that.
The agricultural sector is rightly concerned that approval of this project is likely to set a precedent for future injection into water supply aquifers not only at this location, but other locations across the Basin in the future.
The Great Artesian Basin is one of the largest underground freshwater resources in the world. It generates approximately $13 billion per year. It is a vital resource for 180,000 people, 7,600 businesses and 120 towns. This natural resource is relied upon by agriculture and is the lifeblood for the future of industry and rural communities.
Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) understands the need to consider carbon abatement and as such do not oppose technologies and processes being developed to achieve targets, however this should not be done at the risk or detriment of natural and demanded resources like the Great Artesian Basin. EIS submissions close on 23 February, and QFF and our members Pork Queensland will be watching closely the upcoming decisions regarding this project.