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Environment

Resource activities such as petroleum, geothermal and greenhouse gas storage have the potential to impact a number of different aspects of the environment. The government’s protection regulations are designed to avoid or minimise these impacts.

Land

Cropping areas

Queensland was the first state in Australia to introduce legislation that will protect the State’s strategic cropping areas. The aim is to strike a balance between the competing interests of the agriculture, resource and urban development industries in Queensland.

Projects such as open cut mining, CSG, underground coal gasification, long-wall/underground mining, urban development and industrial development will all be assessed under the laws.

Land rehabilitation

Operators are required to fully rehabilitate all areas of disturbance caused by their activities. To ensure that this will occur, financial assurance must be provided, and will be used for rehabilitation in the event that the company defaults on its environmental requirements. The financial assurance is not returned to the operator until successful rehabilitation is completed.

National parks

National parks are afforded a high level of protection from non-mining resource activities. Under the current regulatory framework, non-mining resource activities are not permitted to undertake activities within national parks. Further, only low-impact activities such as conducting surveys and traversing are permitted within a 200 metre buffer of national parks.

Activities within a secondary buffer distance of 100 metres are also strictly regulated and only limited petroleum activities are permitted to occur including gas wells, small gathering and flow lines and communication/power lines. Any disturbance to land within this secondary buffer must be managed so that activities occur in pre-existing cleared or disturbed areas.

Environmental offsets

An environmental offset is an action taken to counterbalance unavoidable, negative environmental impacts that result from an activity or a development. An offset may be located within or outside the geographic site of the impact.

Environmental offsets are only applicable when the impacts cannot be avoided or minimised, and if all other government environmental standards have been met.

An offset differs from mitigation in that it addresses remaining impacts, after attempts to reduce (or mitigate) the impact have been undertaken.

An example is offsetting vegetation loss by undertaking ongoing management actions near the impact site, to increase the quality and extent of vegetation.

Queensland has been using offsets for a number of years, and has several specific-issue offsets policies that indicate where environmental offsets are needed, and what form they should take.

Read more about the Queensland offsets framework here.

Specific information regarding fish habitat offsets can be found here.

Air Quality

Any environmental nuisance issues relating to non-mining resource activities such as noise, light and odour, are covered by environmental authority conditions.

Well head safety

Operators must undergo regular gas well head audits. The government undertakes separate auditing activities to verify the industry reports on these audits.

The government has also undertaken a Coal Seam Gas Well Head Safety Program audit. Of the more than 2700 well heads tested in the audit, 98 per cent showed no reportable leak.

Cultural Heritage

Queensland's cultural heritage legislation focuses on protecting aspects of our past that we want to keep, appreciate and enjoy today and to pass on to future generations.

Significant projects will be required to prepare a Cultural Heritage Management Plan detailing how the project will be managed to avoid harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage and to the extent that harm can’t be avoided, to minimise harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage.

Drill muds

To access resources such as: oil, conventional gas, coal seam gas and geothermal energy, a well must be drilled from the surface of the earth through layers of soil and rock to the underground resource. In undertaking drilling, waste drill mud is produced. Waste drill mud is a mixture of clay, water and a variety of specialty chemicals called ‘additives’ as well as material from the parent soil and rock.

Waste drill muds can be reused by a petroleum company or another party. Potential uses of waste drill muds include road construction, brick/concrete/block manufacturing, fill and composting/soil conditioning. In most instances, the use of the waste drill muds will require an approval either under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 or under Environmental Protection Act 1994 for regulated environmentally relevant activity. There is a current general beneficial use approval ENBU06204615 under which drill muds can be used as resource in manufacturing compost and general purpose soil complying with the approval conditions. The approval is in force until 31 December 2018.

Waste drill mud is different to waste fluids generated from coal seam gas fraccing activities.  Fraccing involves pumping sand and water with other additives down a well (that has already been constructed) under pressure to create cracks in underground rock formations at specific locations. Fraccing is done to increase gas flow from coal seams. Following fraccing, fluids are returned to the surface, these fluids are referred to as fracc flowback. Fracc flowback contains water, up to 80% of the total amount of water used to initially fracc the well, and can also contain fluids and minerals that were in the rock formation. Fracc flowback is then extracted from the well and either reused or appropriately disposed of.

Last updated
12 December 2016