Fracking Boom Sweeping Through Australia

Australia Could Become World’s Leading LNG Exporter According to Igor Purlantov

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This history of natural gas and its role in Australia goes back more than one hundred years to 1900 when residents in the cattle town of Roma discovered deep gas deposits while drilling for water. Fast forward to today and these once quiet farm towns are now witnessing a bonanza in coal steam gas (CSG) discoveries that are being tapped using hydraulic fracturing technology (fracking). This recent surge in fracking has caused lots of controversy across Australia due to environmental and safety concerns says Igor Purlantov. This concern over fracking comes on top of concern over the increase in gas exploration and production off of the scenic and beautiful Australian coast line.

The recent growth of CSG production through the use of fracking has been nothing short of extraordinary with production levels increasing 2,200% in only six years. At current rates, CSG fuels roughly one third of the demand for natural gas in the most populated region of eastern Australia, home to Canberra and Sydney. This percentage could easily grow to more than one half within the next five years says Igor Purlantov. Likewise, according to the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, this increase in CSG production coupled with increased offshore production means that Australia could very well surpass Qatar as the world’s leading LNG exporter within size years. Unfortunately all of this increase in production of natural gas has come at a great cost to the local environment. As the world’s fourth largest LNG exporter at current levels, Australia has already had to pay for its financial success with environmental damage.

Within the world famous world heritage area of the Great Barrier Reef lies the Gladstone Harbor which is witnessing Australia’s largest dredging operation ever to make room for giant ships that will soon be transporting LNG to energy hungry Asian markets. As developments such as this continue, there is grave concern among environmentalists that ever damage is being done to the local environment, says Igor Purlantov  Crabs, prawns, and other sea life including barramundi in the area have already fell victim to an outbreak of lesions, red spots on other noticeable signs of disease. Veterinary scientists have already confirmed that the harbor’s rich and abundant marine life are suffering from skin ulcers, damaged intestines, and diseased pollution and are just now being stirred up in the sediment as a result of the extensive dredging.

On the other hand, according to Igor Purlantov, state officials have been quick to dismiss environmental concerns over recent development of LNG terminals. They argue that recent outbreaks amongst the marine life at Gladstone Harbor are the result of freshwater floods and cyclones that ravaged Queensland in early 2011 and disturbed water salinity levels. Unfortunately regardless of the exact cause of this environmental damage, the current outbreaks have devastated the area’s once thriving seafood industry. Although the financial cost to the industry is believed to run around $35 million a year, the long term environmental impact is yet to be calculated.

UNESCO has already paid a visit to Australia and voiced concern over development in the areas of the Great Barrier Reef. Ultimately, according to Igor Purlantov, the local government along with its citizens will have to rally together and decide if the revenue they receive from increased fracking and off shore gas production is worth the cost of the damage being done to the local environment, which may be permanent and irreversible. Sadly for local environmentalists, the current tide seems to be in favor of increased development and production of natural gas that may ultimately sweep away any hope for saving local marine life, just like an unstoppable cyclone.

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