Infrastructure and Planning Minister Paul Lucas unveiled a plan that requires CSG producers to meet higher standards for the treatment of CSG water.
This include the discontinuation of evaporation ponds as the primary means of disposing of CSG water and making CSG producers responsible for treating and disposing of by-water.
“I appreciate there is a cost to producers but the opportunity to turn unwanted salt water into treated water that can actually be sold is a win-win for the environment and makes good business sense,” Lucas said.
“In the Surat Basin alone coal seam gas production for domestic purposes could produce an average of 25 gigalitres of water every year for the next 25 years, or about three times Toowoomba's annual consumption.”
He said the government wanted this water to become a valuable resource for environmental, agricultural, industrial and, possibly, domestic use.
Lucas added that while he did not expect the use of CSG water to fix water supply issues in central and western Queensland, he wanted to make sure regional towns received every chance to make use of this water.
He noted that some CSG producers, such as Origin Energy and Arrow Energy, had already started treating their water and putting it to beneficial use.
Arrow corporate environment manager Ralph Gunness had in October told the APPEA Environment Conference that CSG water could be desalinised more cost-effectively than seawater using well-understood reverse osmosis to make it fit for irrigation and drinking.
He added that Arrow saw a future CSG water market in which water is used first to satisfy local requirements with any remaining water piped to the coast for processing in desalinisation plants.
A discussion paper outlining the issues and highlighting areas where the Queensland government wishes to consult further will be sent to stakeholders and made available on the Department of Infrastructure and Planning website: www.dip.qld.gov.au/coal-infrastructure.
The CSG industry will also be asked for feedback on ways to remediate existing ponds and dispose of CSG water that is unable to be used beneficially.