It’s all about the water

Postad i: CSG, Mining den 3 November, 2015 av Johanna Dahlin

DSC_0797“I don’t like it.” Says the old man when he hears we’re interested in CSG. “Not one bit”. It’s about the water he explains. “We barely have enough to keep this place going”. After a long drive north west from Sydney, we’re in a stunningly beautiful region. But since we crossed the Hawkesbury, there has been very little water in the signposted creeks and rivers. This is not unusual,we’re told, they might be dry for months on end. This is no desert, on the contrary it’s productive farmland, but Australia is a pretty dry place. The driest continent. Water is an issue.

The last post was about mining. While mining and extraction might be of use metaphorically in this project, we are also dealing with some very concrete on the ground mining. I was about to say old-fashioned, but what distinguishes the cases investigated in this project is that they are “new-fashioned”. CSG is not about minerals, it is unconventional gas mining.

CSG is short for Coal Seam Gas. It is also called Coalbed Methane (CBM) or coal-mine methane (CMM). (Wherever you go, there’s acronyms…) This is a rather new thing, in Australia the first mines were opened in Queensland in 1996, less than 20 years ago. Since then, CSG has become a major political issue in eastern Australia as the industry has expanded.

CSG is called an unconventional gas because of the methods used extracting it. The methods include hydraulic fractioning, or fracking, which means that high pressure fluid (according to NSW government usually a mixture of water, sand and ‘minor additives’) is injected to the coal seam to open up fractures, which will release gas. The gas will be brought to the surface together with water, from which it will be separated at the surface. Fracking is a highly controversial method, not least because the risks of water contamination (among the other concerns it is also feared that it might trigger earthquakes). Horizontal drilling is also common in CSG extraction.

Historically, some coal beds have long been known to be “gassy”, and thus vented before mining. Boreholes were drilled into the seams to vent the gas. Together with the gas, water is extracted. This water is often contaminated, and therefore one of the major environmental issues with CSG.

There are no gas mines in this area. No yet. And we are here to talk to the people who intend to keep it that way.


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Commons and Commodities

Commons and Commodities
Commons and Commodities är ett forskningsprojekt som undersöker hur gemensamma resurser, allmänningar, avgränsas och inhägnas – och det motstånd sådana processer möter. Vi studerar hur olika typer av allmänningar – både materiella och immateriella – på olika sätt privatiseras och inhägnas och hur detta påverkar de som brukar dem. Vi som skriver här heter Johanna Dahlin och Martin Fredriksson.

Common and Commodities is a research project which asks if, and how, the commons are rearticulated and enclosed as property. It aims to provide new knowledge about how different kinds of common resources are enclosed and commodified as private property, and how this affects those who use and manage those commons. Johanna Dahlin and Martin Fredriksson are writing.

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