Residents in the Tara residential estate on Darling Downs have expressed concern about the air quality in the area, reporting the presence of gas as smelling “sweet” and like “rotten eggs.”
The residents have also complained about symptoms like nose bleeds and chronic headaches in children.
Lock the Gate Alliance president Drew Hutton said it was highly likely the rotten egg smell was hydrogen sulphide and the sweet smelling gas was nitrous oxide, adding that both were “coming from the same place as methane – the dewatered coal seams from which coal seam gas companies are extracting both water and gas.”
However the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association said the assertion that the hydrogen sulphide smell was a result of gas industry operations was unfounded.
“Natural gas from coal seams is typically methane, with small percentages of nitrogen, ethane and carbon dioxide,” APPEA eastern region chief operating Officer Rick Wilkinson said.
“Coal seam gas does not contain hydrogen sulphide.
“These claims are typical of the wild, shrill and broadly denigrating statements by opponents of the gas industry and should be treated as such.”
APPEA went on to say the smells could be linked to the agricultural industry in the area which uses strong-smelling fertilisers and other chemicals.
“Hydrogen sulphide is a natural by-product of the decay of vegetation and can be present in the natural environment after wet periods.
“It is also commonly generated in rotting eggs and sewage farms,” APPEA said.
Queensland Natural Resources Minister Andrew Cripps said the government’s CSG/LNG enforcement unit was investigating the claims as a matter of urgency but would not speculate on whether the odour was related to CSG production or if it was naturally occurring.
“The government’s CSG/LNG enforcement unit has been working closely with the people of Tara for some time to establish ongoing air quality testing in their region,” he said
“Air quality monitoring will allow government officers to firstly identify the types of gases present and then hone in on any potential cause or sources.
“We will only get … answers through local monitoring and testing and will then be able to chart a course of action to address the issue if necessary.”
This article first appeared in ILN's sister publication EnergyNewsBulletin.net.